Canadian Art

Review

Jeremy Borsos: Frieze Frames

SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art, Montreal Feb 4 to Mar 31 2012
Jeremy Borsos <em>Been Poll</em> 2010 Installation view / photo Ronald S. Diamond Jeremy Borsos Been Poll 2010 Installation view / photo Ronald S. Diamond

Jeremy Borsos <em>Been Poll</em> 2010 Installation view / photo Ronald S. Diamond

Assembled from thousands of feet of 8mm home movies which Jeremy Borsos has acquired from eBay, the works in this solo exhibition, “8mm Redux,” explore two distinct, yet complementary, approaches to archive art. These approaches could be termed narrative and formal, respectively: while one focuses on the found films’ storytelling potential, the other is primarily concerned with the films’ aesthetic qualities.

The first approach is exemplified by a series of short single-channel films which apply montage, captions and basic sound effects to the footage in order to construct nostalgic, ironic or poetic mini-narratives. These range from the Hitchcockian story of a man whose car collides with a train to the great joy of his wife (Lifetime Achievement) and the Oedipal grand narrative of Tradition, which tells a man’s life trajectory in the snappy tone of advertisement slogans, to the materialist manipulations of sound and image tracks in Means to an End.

Similarly, Mon Vrai Man Ray is a 17-minute reverie which tells a fictional story of Man Ray’s possible love affair with a Montreal art historian. In order to illustrate the narrative, the piece constantly re-ascribes meaning to found footage: the result is a poetically ambiguous film which explores the possibilities of a parallel history unfolding amidst the poignantly real events of the 20th century.

By contrast, Been Poll , a 27-channel projection which takes up a large wall in the gallery space, orders the found footage in a formal, taxonomical way. The 27 window-like squares of the installation are lit up, one after the other, with the basic tenets of amateur cinema: family holidays, children playing on lawns, fathers with cameras. The footage has been slowed down and ordered according to the number of people present in a shot, subjects’ poses, or the types of settings they depict, such as water, yards and interiors. Cycle after cycle ends with a simultaneous freeze-frame across all 27 channels which focuses on subjects waving, entering the camera frame or engaging in other gestures. After a brief dip to black, a new cycle begins, moving swiftly from the general to the individual, from randomness to organization.

Beyond a nostalgic fascination with the styles and ways of life inadvertently documented in the footage, both approaches serve Borsos’ fundamental engagement with the “lived” quality of the home movies: a relentless quest for those passing, “in-between” moments of sheer existence which make up the bulk of lived experience, and the various ways in which these can be read and re-appropriated.

This article was first published online on March 22, 2012.

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