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The Galleries at Moore present The Long Now, featuring film and video works
Chantal Akerman’s mesmerizing study of stasis and containment, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce (1975).

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Long Now, a group exhibition that explores the dialectical relationship between the still and moving image through the work of nine internationally acclaimed artists and filmmakers, will be on view at The Galleries at Moore August 24 – October 3, 2012. The exhibition is curated by Kaytie Johnson, the Rochelle F. Levy Director and Chief Curator of The Galleries at Moore.

During the second half of the twentieth century, artists and filmmakers increasingly embraced slowness as a strategy to counter the rapidly accelerating speed and spectacle of modernity. As speed lost its critical edge and artistic credentials, slowness became a radical gesture. Bound by their deployment of reductive cinematic and visual strategies – including minimal narrative structure, the long take, a pronounced emphasis on quietude and the everyday, and a forensic attention to detail and temporality – the works featured in The Long Now present the viewer with moments of stillness and slowness that counter the pervasive fetishism of technology and spectacle that defines modern life. Positioned in the interstitial space between motion (the cinematic) and stillness (the photographic), they elicit and reward patient, sustained attention, allowing us to fully experience the depths of things so easily missed in what writer Don DeLillo has described in his novel Point Omega (2010) as “the shallow habit of seeing.”

In the 1960s, this resistance to speed was at the heart of the experimental films of Andy Warhol and Michael Snow, both of whom created seminal works that took cinema into direct dialogue with the stillness of the moving image, most notably through the use of cinema’s key response to the pace of spectacle: the uninterrupted long take. Deemed “unwatchable” by many critics, Warhol’s eight-hour-long, durational masterpiece, Empire (1964) features time-lapse footage of the Empire State Building shot in one continuous take over the course of a single evening. According to Warhol, the point of the film – arguably his most famous and influential cinematic work – was “to see time go by.”

Widely considered to be one of the most influential experimental films of all time, Michael Snow’s rigorously composed structural epic Wavelength (1967), which consists of a 45-minute-long tracking shot through the length of a room, is a meditation on cinematic practice that elegantly straight through the essence of the filmic experience.

Bruce Nauman’s “studio films,” many based in part on composer John Cage’s experiments with duration and indeterminacy and informed by avant-garde dance, made use of a fixed camera to explore the narrative and structure of time. In Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square (1967-68), the unmoving frame of a stationary video camera captures the artist carefully carrying out a series of actions, performed in real time, within the barren mise-en-scène of his studio.

Turner Prize-winning British artist Gillian Wearing’s Dancing in Peckham (1994), which presents the artist dancing by herself in a south London shopping mall to a soundtrack existing only in her head, continues the artist’s exploration of the disparities between public and private life, the individual and society, voyeurism and exhibitionism, and fiction and fact.

Slow, meditative, and rich in allusion, Mark Lewis’s films fuse pictorial tradition with the art of movement. Shot in real time, North Circular (2000) uses the minimal narrativity of a single tracking shot to explore a sense of duration and place, drawing our attention to the movement of the camera and the passage of time.

Paul Pfeiffer’s visually breathtaking yet destabilizing Morning After the Deluge (2003), in which dazzling Cape Cod sunrises and sunsets are digitally fused into a single, incomprehensible image, creates an unsettling sense of timelessness that elicits and rewards patient, sustained attention

The work of Sharon Lockhart engages a rich and fascinating dialogue between still photography and cinema by pushing the formal boundaries of both mediums. This is especially evident in the quasi-structuralist “still film” LUNCH BREAK (Assembly Hall, Bath Iron Works, November 5, 2007, Bath, Maine) (2008), which consists of a single, uninterrupted tracking shot in which the camera moves in extreme slow motion through the corridor of a Maine shipyard, expanding the viewer’s capacity to perceive the minute gestures of the workers’ gestures and their environment.

Two examples of “contemplative cinema” – Chantal Akerman’s mesmerizing study of stasis and containment, Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce (1975) and Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff (2011), a cinematic expression of emptiness and moving meditation on open space that transforms the Western film genre into a minimalist masterpiece – will also be screened during the run of the show.

In a time when it seems increasingly difficult to capture interest with conventional shock tactics, that which demands a certain kind of careful attention – which decelerates – may be some of the most daring artwork of all.

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August 22, 2012

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