Author: Lisa Marie Patzer
As I walked up the ramp to the second floor gallery at the ICA, I immediately recognized the whirring sound of the slide tray advancing and the click of the next slide falling into place. Growing up in the 1970’s, I am nostalgic for all things celluloid, including 35mm slides. Imagine my delight when I saw not one, but four slide projectors, sitting side by side in the gallery, dutifully rotating, loading and projecting images at regular intervals. This is what I would call a little slice of cinephile heaven.
The four slide projectors are part of an installation titled Sample Frames, 2011 by Alexandra Navratil (born 1978) and is featured as part of the current exhibit Living Document / Naked Reality: Towards and Archival Cinema on display at the Institute of Contemporary Art Project Space.
The show is curated by Jennifer Burris, the Whitney-Lauder Curatorial Fellow. She states about the show, “Living Document / Naked Reality: Towards an Archival Cinema presents works by contemporary artists who explore cinema’s complex political, formal, and ideological history from the 1910s to the 1960s. Each project engages with the often contradictory responses to the question ‘What is cinema?’ Together, these works—which include video, found object, and slide installation as well as a series of ‘black box’ screenings and events—provoke both critique and nostalgia for the outmoded film technologies and abandoned utopias of a previous era.”
Alexandra Navratil addresses the question “What is cinema?” through synchronized projections of 81 images that were produced by Eastman Kodak Company from 1916 to 1927 as a series of “color guidebooks”. Kodak produced these slides in an attempt to demonstrate the correct way of tinting black and white slides. What is fascinating is the way in which the film material has decomposed over the years, negating their original purpose as “pure sample frames”. Instead, with the viewer sees are four variations of the same exact image, without reference to what the “true” or “correct” image would look like.
Accompanying the Sample Frames installation is an artist book designed by Navratil, Permanence Vocabulary. On each page, a single term from the “Imagining Materials-Permanence-Vocabulary” manual is printed and defined. For instance, the first word “Abrasion” is printed in dark gray and following the word is the definition.
The ICA has several events planned in partnership with the International House, Temple University and Penn, to run concurrent with this show. See here for more information.