WAYS OF SOMETHING (Lorna Mills, 2014-15)
Museum of the Moving Image, Bartos Screening Room
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Sunday, March 25, $15 (includes museum admission), 5:30
In his seminal 1972 book and BBC television series Ways of Seeing, British writer, critic, and artist John Berger explored how we encounter artistic images, from European oil paintings to advertisements and color photography. Regarding publicity images, Berger, who passed away in January 2017 at the age of ninety, said, “I believe that in many respects, these images continue that tradition. I’ve been critical of many things in that tradition, of our culture, of some of the values which it celebrates and I have illustrated my arguments by using the modern means of reproduction.” A kind of update of Walter Benjamin’s 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Ways of Seeing looks at paintings by Leonardo, Botticelli, Van Gogh, Hals, Caravaggio, Ingres, Rubens, and others as well as commercials, taking on issues of surveillance, gender, religion, sexuality, nudity, voyeurism, class, envy, identity, and glamour in society since the Renaissance. It is more than just a primer about art; it is an ingenious guide for how to experience all that we see every day, and it is still remarkably relevant in the digital age and the advent of social media, YouTube, and the selfie.
In 2014-15, Canadian new media artist Lorna Mills (Abrupt Diplomat, At Play in the Fields of the Lord) reimagined Berger’s show by creating four episodes that use Berger’s original narration, highlighted by his slight slurring of his “R”s, but had new visuals made by more than a hundred artists, who were responsible for one minute each; they also designed the subtitled captioning of everything that is said during their sixty seconds. Among the participating artists were Jaakko Pallasvuo, Dafna Ganani, Matthew Williamson, Marisa Olson, Eva Papamargariti, Faith Holland, Alfredo Salazar-Caro, Andrea Crespo, Jesse Darling, Morehshin Allahyari, Shana Moulton, Amy Lockhart, Luke Painter, and Mills herself. The artists incorporate film and video, archival footage, computer animation, and futuristic graphic design that replaces the original images; some of the artists digitally manipulate the works being discussed, but most transport viewers to high- and low-tech fantastical worlds. On March 25 at 5:30, Mills (minute #24 of episode four), Papamargariti (minute #18 of episode one), Allahyari (minute #14 of episode #4), Salazar-Caro (minute #24 of episode one), and Holland (minute #29 of episode one) will be at the Museum of the Moving Image for a screening of Mills’s series, followed by a discussion and a Q&A. Be sure to check out “The GIF Elevator” as well, an installation that last year featured Mills’s Yellowwhirlaway and is currently showing work by Dain Fagerholm.