Dog, Horse, Museum Piece – Patrick Hartigan


Dog, Horse, Museum Piece
Patrick Hartigan, 2005-2006
DVD transferred from super eight
8 minutes, 53 seconds

Comprised of three short experimental films stitched together and looped, Dog, Horse, Museum Piece is gritty and grainy in black and white super 8 film. The work is beautifully composed, framing estranged subjects from intrusive or obscure angles, and placed within contexts that conjure a surreal sense of timelessness. This atmospheric disorientation is heightened by the films’ pervading and unexpected silence.

In Dog, the viewer is momentarily locked within the transcendent state of the subject who is wholly absorbed in an event occurring beyond the frame of the camera. The young dog – isolated by the camera against a concrete floor – frightfully leaps from the frame as an elongated shadow approaches its own, or barks precariously into an unknown distance. The lack of an expected audio to accompany the movements of sound creation in Dog enhance its dreamlike disorientation and distills a sense of being ‘nowhere’ at ‘no time’; a fragment of a faded memory. There is something truly unsettling in observing the creature motioning the familiar neighbourhood growl resonating nothing but a sustained and sinister silence.

Horse is almost unbearable to watch; voyeuristically observing the creature tormented by flies that swarm and seemingly crawl into the sockets of it’s glistening wet eyes, one imagines the the light-footed, fluttering, creeping sensation over their own exposed flesh. Filmed from obtrusively close angles detailing leathery, wire-haired skin infested with insects that rhythmically responds with violent shakes, it is at first difficult to discern what animal is being watched. One may feel empathy for the agonised body, being simultaneously repulsed and seduced by the sensuous detail and beautiful faded tones of black and white film.

Museum Piece is an interesting clip filmed in the Natural History Museum of Vienna while it was undergoing renovation. Juxtaposing suggestive, ominously wrapped figures, frozen-in-motion taxidermised creatures, museum onlookers, a shopping trolley and views through the museum’s windows of Vienna’s streets and buildings outside, the boundaries between the display and the voyeur, the modern and ancient, the living and preserved, and the outside and inside are blurred. Time as a linear social construct and the hierarchies of representation – of what is considered ‘museum worthy’, are broken down.  Each subject, frozen or in motion, is framed by the lens of the camera as a spectacle to behold. As the artist Patrick Hartigan expresses, “[I am interested in] … the most mundane and immediately perceivable forms of human existence (at least in my own life) bumping against the heavily veiled forms found in museum classification” *.

The three silent looped shorts create disorientating experiences of an alternative representation of reality; time stands still, highly absorbed states within seemingly insignificant moments become momentous events, and the distinctions between socially constructed realities are thrown into confusion.
* MCA – Dog, Horse, Museum Piece – Patrick Hartigan 

La jetée – Chris Marker


La jetée, 1962
Directed by Chris Marker
28 min.

La jetée is a hauntingly beautiful, deeply disturbing French science fiction film that is created almost entirely out of black and white photographs.

Set in a post-nuclear WW3 Paris, in which survivors must dwell underground as the above atmosphere is riddled with radiation, a prisoner is painfully experimented on and sent through time on a mission to call for help for the stranded Parisians. Reencountering a woman who’s face was forever embedded in his memory since seeing her one day as a child on an airport observation deck – the place and time on which occurred a terrible incident, mystery unravels and a deeply disturbing revelation is made…

Unsettling, dissonant music plays throughout the film, and one soon forgets that they are watching still images as the mind becomes utterly absorbed. La jetée is one of those rare, otherworldly films that stay with you for a long time.

(To view film with English subtitles, click ‘captions’ on the bottom right of the video.)

‘Passionless Moments’ – by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee


“There are one million moments in your neighbourhood, but as the film-makers discovered, each has a fragile presence which fades almost as it forms.”

Passionless Moments, 1984
Written and directed by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee
13 minutes

This Australian short film is beautifully shot and has a brilliantly quirky sense of humour. The recognisable, documentary-style voiceover authoritatively commentates the insignificant, spontaneous and sometimes deeply strange threads of thought within which this suburban neighbourhood of 10 ordinary individuals become temporarily self-absorbed. However embarrassing and absolutely whimsical, these moments are, strangely enough, quite familiar indeed…

I really love this work and have for a while now been planning to film a similar collection of fleeting, odd and intimate minutes of people’s daily lives. I enjoy writing detailed poetic snippets of strange moments, and after watching Campion and Lee’s work I’m thinking that they might translate well into film. I’ve many ideas floating around in my head at the moment – if I’m lucky some of them might not be too daft! Now, just in need of a little freedom from the demands of uni to give them a go…

‘What’s He Building?’ by Tom Waits


Listening to Tom Waits’ 1999 experimental musical poem ‘What’s He Building?’ is like stumbling into a hauntingly beautiful nightmare and becoming temporarily lost… it’s mystery is captivating. A roughened voice rhythmically grinds words that echo ghastly, occasionally darkly comedic scenes of suburban paranoia. This along with it’s nostalgic atmosphere of eerie drones and fragmented sounds is deeply unsettling and absolutely tantalises the imagination…”what the hell is he building in there?”

I’d love to create something like this… I’ve been recording snippets of sounds around my neighbourhood – from next-door arguments, to the drawn-out breathing of a dreaming dog, to the comforting morning clanging in the kitchen… a rather chaotic choir of noise at the moment.