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