Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Conversation between Mark Lewis and Benjamin Weil

The first conversation on the day before the official press opening was more like an intimate conversation with a few friends in the audience. It rolled into a fluid and seamlessly artìculate discussion among the people there. 

Mark Lewis, guided by Benjamin Weil, the French curator, opened the conversation (naturally for a filmmaker) with a discussion of architecture. For those familiar with the Canadian Pavillion - otherwise known, as Lewis said amusingly, as the outhouse for the British Pavillion, and the only modern construction in its section of the Giardini, you will find it transformed. Lewis redesigned it; a wall of smoked glass now closes off the usual wide entrance, blocks-out the outside world and dims the lights to create an effective viewing room for his four short, silent films  - two large and two small -  which he installed, he said, in the simplest and most conservative of manners, like pictures in a gallery.  

The conversation continued with a relaxed, amiable yet erudite discussion of the historical parallels between the rise and fall of modernism/the international style and the cinema, both peaking in the 1950s/60s, and the manner in which Lewis draws on the memory of cinema to create new works: combining for example a classic Hollywood technique of rear projection (an outdated form of illusion making), with a live foreground scene filmed in state-of-the art  HD video. It's just that point where illusion is both destroyed and admitted that fascinates, he says, allowing you to hold that contradictory thought in your head. And for those of you who would like to hold it comfortably seated  - well, we were sorry to learn that it was a lack of funds and not an artistic choice that prevents the presence of benches in the viewing environment. Sitting on the floor works beautifully.

Weil also evoked some of Lewis's older work, not shown here in Venice, that  explicitly explores the cinema process or syntax ('deconstructive' if you will), such as movement and time, e.g. very short films incorporating the names of camera moves into the titles, like "Downtown Pan...", which relieves the viewer of the usual waiting to see what will happen next, or films determined by the length of the reel, with 4 minutes as a preferred length for galleries and museum viewing, constraint as other forms of relief...

Carrie Pilto

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