Magazine article Artforum International

Kevin Hanley. (Openings)

Magazine article Artforum International

Kevin Hanley. (Openings)

Article excerpt

Two women lounge on beds, a camcorder on a tripod between them. The colors and patterns of their clothing and the decor evoke Matisse, while the mise-en-scene overtly references a tradition of abstracting the reclining figure in studio. The women chat and take turns spinning the camera. As each spin slows to a halt, a stable image will emerge from the blur only to be spun into disorientation again. Thus Los Angeles--based artist Kevin Hanley "shot" the two extended sequences that comprise Different at Times, 2002, and he projects them sideways and side by side. Turned vertical in presentation, the parallel lines of bodies and beds confound one's sense of spatial orientation. Stranger still is watching the ebb and flow of stops and starts as the spins fall in and out of sync with one another--an experience not unlike watching the rotating cylinders of a slot machine: Expectation and anticipation conspire with basic mechanics and chance to make time seem to speed up and slow down, contradicting the sound tracks which, though garbled by overlap, serve to remind us that the temporally disorienting footage plays in real time. In both the setup, which facilitated the work's making, and in its final form, which offers an almost literalist view into its creation, Different at Times is exemplary of Hanley's pursuit of "play," a kind of collision (or slippage) between visual representation, representational convention, conventional wisdom, empirical understanding, and the artist's means of production. In Hanley's practice, what is pictured-whether familiar, jarring, or entertaining--functions as a vehicle for media, process, and presentational modes that the artist exploits in unexpected and unorthodox ways and which become significant, if not primary, in the work.

Different at Times also exemplifies Hanley's attempts to redistribute point of view by entrusting the camera to others. He made Passing and Resemblance (Monika), 2002, with help from a woman pointing a camera at herself while walking backward. The video plays on a monitor backed against another monitor playing the same footage in reverse, pairing natural backward movement with unnatural, awkward forward motion. In Vagrant Observations, 1997, Hanley removed himself via a sleight of mind-body separation by strapping cameras to his feet and recording while walking down the street. The title of Two and Four, 1996, meanwhile, references the doubling that occurs in the two-channel projection while echoing the phrase "to and fro," which aptly describes the footage generated by two women playing catch with the camera.

Hanley does get behind the lens to make still photographs. In early works, he took a variety of color pictures and then digitally melded the images with broad fields of solid that matched hues found in the photos. More recently, it seems Hanley seeks opportunities for using the camera to exploit conventions and expectations that shape how we see photographs (or see via photographs) and think about them and to accentuate preexisting optical illusions or perceptual oddities. Surface, 2002, for instance, shows what appears to be leaves gently floating atop a dark, placid lake, the somber romance of which is undercut by the realization that it's actually a picture of a rippled asphalt parking lot in need of sweeping.

Enlisting complex camera setups, using appropriated footage, and delving into editing and postproduction, Hanley has found other ways to work in video without handling the camera or handing it off. He shot Threesixty, 2002, with cameras mounted foursquare around a skateboarder pulling 360-degree spins, then combined the footage to suggest the experience of watching the action while revolving around the spinning figure. …

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