Magazine article Artforum International

Alix Pearlstein: On Stellar Rays

Magazine article Artforum International

Alix Pearlstein: On Stellar Rays

Article excerpt

In a video projected wall-size, people come and go. They meet, part, walk toward one another, and run away. They confront the camera or they ignore it. The only sounds are of footsteps, quickening and slowing. Facial expressions are for the most part neutral, although some of the performers occasionally exhibit a wider range of emotion, in particular a handsome dark-haired fellow who glowers and flirts, his posture looser than the others'. At one point, he and an older woman press their cheeks together, and she smiles rather radiantly--an understated emotional peak.

This is Alix Pearlstein's Moves in the Field (all works 2012). Despite the austerity of the characters' actions, which bring to mind both contact improv and the task-based performance of Yvonne Rainer, the video has the gloss of a studio film, featuring seasoned performers with engaging faces and vivid, high-definition footage. The camera constantly moves, showing the action through a variety of angles and distances, sometimes moving in a way that suggests it has a personality, that it is acting in the scene rather than simply recording; it lingers, as if interested, or flits by, as if bored. The randomness of the characters' behavior, too, constantly subverts our expectations. Every attempt to construct a narrative--as ordinary movements begin to look more like chasing, rejecting, beseeching; as the studiously neutral expressions, examined closely, reflect curiosity, distaste, disappointment--is thwarted, pulling us back to an experience of pure movement. The camera is occasionally complicit in this effect, as when it depicts a person in close-up staring pensively offscreen, evidently at nothing, only to reveal that he is nose to nose with someone else. …

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