Celluloid Drag: Some Spaces Between Film and Architecture was an exhibition I curated for Dorsch Gallery, Miami, Florida. It was on view from March 14 - April 4, 2009 and featured the work of 1960s conceptual artist Gordon Matta-Clark, painter Todd McDaniel and sculptor Ralph Provisero. In Celluloid Drag, the artists harness the superfluous aspects of or decontextualize materials from film and architecture. The title reflects the influence that tangential elements of film and architecture have on these artists. Drag refers to the presence of the filmstrip becoming evident when a projector malfunctions, causing the film to drag and the spaces between the frames to intermingle/interfere with image and light. The drag of environmental elements such as wind or light being slowed, stretched or split by physical objects, especially architecture, also comes into play.
The exhibition theme came to me after a studio visit with McDaniel. During the studio visit, he spoke about his newest work which rolls together and reconfigures architecture and movies -- especially old ones, including film noir, B-horror and, most notably, the last sequence in King Kong. But, rather than focusing on images or stories from films, it is the lingering impressions that inspire him. McDaniel’s ardently flat paintings contain, to varying degrees, the light/celluloid of film and recognizable architectural shapes, trajectories and lines of skyscrapers, dwellings and other cityscapes.
In the color film City Slivers (1976) by Gordon Matta-Clark, the two “paths” of the eye Film director and theorist Sergei Eisenstein defined as architectural (objects move by as the body passes them) and cinematic (the body is still but images move by on a flat screen) coexist. In it, Matta-Clark films New York City with a Super 8 camera, framing architecture and its inhabitants with the slender gaps between its buildings. The point of view is determined by the forgotten bits of real estate that Matta-Clark highlighted through the social act of purchasing (Reality Properties: Fake Estates, 1973) and the artistic act of filming.
In Ralph Provisero’s installation, the artist uses metal rods and the gallery’s architecture in an installation designed specifically for Celluloid Drag. The installation encourages visitors to walk differently through the space as they step over and weave around the work. The work mirrors McDaniel’s concern with the decorative and Gordon Matta-Clark’s mining of urban architecture as an allegorical subject. Provisero sees the physical intrusion and pressure of the sculpture against the gallery’s architecture as being in discussion with Matta-Clark’s building cuts where he literally cut large shapes out of buildings through dramatic, performative/sculptural acts.
With Eisenstein’s cinematic and architectural idea of path in mind (not to mention the handful of voices that asserted architecture as a precursor to film), this exhibition brings together a few artists who mine the interstitial spaces between the disciplines of film and architecture. In doing so they expand their own media and critique assumed functions of film, architecture, sculpture and painting.