Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler

By Kastner, Jeffrey | Artforum International, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler


Kastner, Jeffrey, Artforum International


TANYA BONAKDAR GALLERY

Like much of their quietly elegant, keenly intelligent video work, the two ambitious projects by the artist team of Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler recently on view at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery made significant demands on, and richly rewarded, viewers' attention. Clocking in at fifty-four and twenty-four minutes, respectively, the works--Grand Paris Texas, 2009, and the new two-screen video installation Melies, 2011--represent the first two installments in a planned trilogy exploring the physical conditions and social character of the cinematic experience, here with particular respect to film's relationship to place and memory and the kinds of psychic traces movies leave in their wake. While the videos no doubt confounded most casual gallery-goers' regular viewing tempo, those with the time and inclination to settle into the pieces' unhurried rhythms would have found much to admire in the way their low-key, detective-story formats were routed through strategically oblique, sweetly melancholy renderings of small-town life.

Constructed from extensive interviews intercut with beautifully shot interior and exterior sequences, both films are set in Texas (the artists are based in Austin)--the former in the town for which the elegiac 1984 movie, written by Sam Shepard and directed by Wim Wenders, is named; the latter in and around a west Texas border spot called Sierra Blanca--and both involve searches, of sorts, for things both remembered and forgotten. If the older work, Grand Paris Texas, revolves around the eponymous Wenders film (which, not coincidentally, is neither set in nor has much of anything to do with Paris, Texas, itself, but rather treats the town as a kind of placeholder for a generalized sense of desire and loss), it takes as its physical centerpiece a derelict cinema in the center of the town. Long abandoned, the Grand was once a meeting place of considerable style for Paris's several thousand residents, but today it's a crumbling shell, exhaling dust and cobwebs and hosting nothing but a colony of pigeons.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Hubbard and Birchler take their time as they excavate the structure's evocative psychogeographics, alternating behind-the-scenes footage of their crew exploring the cinema and setting up shots with the products of those activities--footage of vacant offices, empty corridors, and disused screening rooms. …

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