– Spring 2012

Temporality, Sociality, Publicness: Cinema as Art Project

Maeve Connolly

Jesse Jones, 12 Angry Films, 2006. Installation view, Pigeon House, Dublin. Photograph: Hugh McElveen. Courtesy the artist 

Introduction: Cinema as Art Project

The cinematic turn evident in contemporary art over the past two decades has been widely theorised from a variety of perspectives.1 But relatively little attention has been paid to one of the more literal manifestations of ‘artists’ cinema’, artworks that take the form of film theatres.2 This article discusses five recent public art projects by artists, all devised as functioning cinemas: 12 Angry Films (2006), by Jesse Jones; Sunset Cinema (2007), by Apolonija Šušteršič and Bik Van der Pol; Venetian, Atmospheric (2007), by Tobias Putrih; Auto-Kino! (2010), by Phil Collins (programmed in collaboration with Siniša Mitrović); and Clemens von Wedemeyer’s Sun Cinema (2010), the only one of these works devised as a permanent structure.

While diverse, these five projects share a focus on cinema as a social form, rather than an ontological concern with the medium of film. All evoke specific modes of reception that belong to the collective memory of cinema, such as the drive-in (in the case of 12 Angry Films and Auto-Kino!), and so engage with the social temporalities of cinema-going. It is possible to identify parallels with the open-air screening programmes that are sometimes organised in urban parks, as public amenities or tourist attractions, and many of these projects were presented as part of wider public events programmes. While some required cinema-goers to book in advance, all the screenings were free. But, while they borrow from known forms of cinematic reception, the selections are characterised by distinctive strategies of curation, design and mediation and by self-reflexive approaches to publicness and its production.

These projects were realised within disparate contexts, with resources derived from an

  1. For an overview of this field see Tanya Leighton, ‘Introduction’, in T. Leighton (ed.), Art and the Moving Image: A Critical Reader, London: Tate Publishing in association with Afterall, 2008, pp.7—40.

  2. Chrissie Iles offers a brief overview of artists’ cinemas in Ian White, ‘Does the Museum Fail? Podium Discussion at the 53rd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen’, in Mike Sperlinger and I. White (ed.), Kinomuseum: Towards an Artists’ Cinema, Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2008, pp.115—55. See also Maeve Connolly, The Place of Artists’ Cinema: Space, Site and Screen, Bristol and Chicago: Intellect and University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp.170—91, and ‘Apperception, Duration and Temporalities of Reception’, Moving Image Review & Art Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, forthcoming 2012, pp.53—57.

  3. ‘My City’ was developed by the British Council in collaboration with Anadolu Kültür and Platform Garanti, and with funding from the EU Cultural Bridges programme. The commissioned projects included Mark Wallinger’s Sinema Amnesia (2010), a small temporary cinema located at the seaport of Çanakkale on the Dardanelles strait, overlooking the World War I graves of Gallipoli, and devised to screen non-stop footage of that patch of the strait with a 24-hour time delay.

  4. Another example is The Floating Cinema (2011) by Studio Weave (architects) and Nina Pope and Karen Guthrie (working collaboratively as Somewhere). Taking the form of a mobile cinema moving along the waterways of East London, it was commissioned by The Olympic Delivery Authority as part of their Arts and Cultural Strategy, and funded by Arts Council England as part of the Portavilion programme. See http://www.portavilion.com (last accessed on 19 October 2011).

  5. See Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (1998; trans. Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods), Dijon: Les Presses du Réel, 2002.

  6. Roberta Smith references the Situationists in ‘A Channel-Surfing Experience with Beanbag Chairs and Gym’, The New York Times, 25 April 1997, http://www.nytimes.com/1997/04/25/arts/a-channel- surfing-experience-with-beanbag-chairs-and-gym.html (last accessed on 23 November 2011).

  7. Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image (1983; trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986.

  8. John Kelsey, ‘“theanyspacewhatever”: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York’, Artforum, vol.XLVII, no.7, March 2009, p.236.

  9. Ina Blom, On the Style Site: Art, Sociality and Media Culture, Berlin and New York: Sternberg Press, 2007, p.131. Blom’s concept of mimicry is specifically informed by Craig J. Saper’s notion of the artwork as ‘sociopoetic’. See C. J. Saper, Networked Art, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2001, pp.151—52.

  10. I. Blom, On the Style Site., op. cit., p.14.

  11. Ibid., p.109.

  12. As T.J. Demos has recently noted, this model was also characterised by occlusion (particularly in relation to television), prompting artists such Dara Birnbaum to develop new critical approaches. See T.J. Demos, Dara Birnbaum: Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, London: Afterall Books, 2010, pp.10—11.

  13. Tom Gunning, ‘The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde’, in Thomas Elsaesser with Adam Barker (ed.), Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, London: BFI, 1990, pp.56—62.

  14. See Miriam Hansen, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film, Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press, 1991.

  15. Miwon Kwon, ‘Public Art as Publicity’, 2002, http://www.republicart.net/disc/publicum/ kwon01_en.htm (last accessed on 19 October 2011).

  16. Michael Warner, ‘Publics and Counterpublics’, Public Culture, vol.14, no.1, 2002, p.81.

  17. Simon Sheikh, ‘Publics and Post-Publics: The Production of the Social’, Open 14: Art as a Public Issue, 2008, p.34.

  18. Ibid., p.28.

  19. The project was documented in ‘Imaginary Spaces, Activist Practices’, in Liz Burns, Jesse Jones et al., 12 Angry Films, Dublin: Fire Station Artists’ Studios, 2007, pp.17—23. http://www.firestation.ie/ content/files/12-angry-films.pdf (last accessed on 19 October 2011).

  20. For a useful exploration of Raymond Williams’s concept of mobile privatisation see Margaret Morse, ‘An Ontology of Everyday Distraction: The Freeway, the Mall, and Television’, Virtualities: Television, Media Art, and Cyberculture, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998, pp.99—124.

  21. J. Jones cited in an online directory of public art in Ireland: http://www.publicart.ie/en/main/ public-art-directory/directory/view/12-angry-films/b7f3093b7f/ (last accessed on 21 November 2011).

  22. During the show, a solo exhibition by Phil Collins was also on view at the same time at daadgalerie, Berlin (http://www.berliner-kuenstlerprogramm.de); the press release and programme for Auto-Kino! are available at http://www.kunsthalle-berlin.com/en/exhibitions/AutoKino (both last accessed on 21 November 2011).

  23. It is interesting to note that a more recent project by Collins, This Unfortunate Thing Between Us (2011), which formed part of the programme ‘Testing Stage: A Window to Performa New York’ at the Hebbel am Ufer theatre in Berlin (September—October 2011), explores similar issues. Like Auto-Kino! it emphasises the role of desire in the production of a social and political body. It initially seems to bypass cinema entirely, but as a live broadcast from a theatre it actually resembles a form of programming that has become quite commonplace within commercial and art-house cinemas.

  24. See Tyler Coburn’s brief account in ‘First View’, Art Review, 28 April 2010, http://www.artreview.com/ forum/topics/berlin-part-i (last accessed on 20 November 2011).

  25. The interior of the Tampa Theatre in Florida is discussed, without specific reference to Eberson, in Janna Jones, ‘Finding a Place at the Downtown Picture Palace: The Tampa Theater, Florida’, in Mark Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice (ed.), Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2001, pp.122—33.

  26. Francesco Manacorda, ‘Cinematic Psycho-Functionalism’, Tobias Putrih, Venetian, Atmospheric, 52nd International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia (exh. cat.), Ljubljana: Slovenian Pavilion, 2007, p.13.

  27. This text is available at Bik Van der Pol’s website: http://www.bikvanderpol.net/?book=1&page=315 (last accessed on 18 October 2011).

  28. Sven Lütticken, ‘Bik Van der Pol’s Repetitions’, Secret Publicity: Essays on Contemporary Art, Rotterdam and Amsterdam: Nai Publishers and Fonds BKVB, 2005, pp.155—56.

  29. Email from Liesbeth Bik, 8 November 2011. Full details of the programme can be found at http://www.filmreakter.lu/film-luxembourg/sunset-cinema/ (last accessed on 21 November 2011).

  30. Graeme Hogg, Chiz Williams and Ben Slater in conversation with Adam Pugh, ‘Reclaiming the Cinema Space: The Cube a “Social Cinema”’, in A. Pugh (ed.), Common Ground, Norwich: AURORA, 2009, p.144. David E. James also provides a valuable account of micro-cinemas and film clubs in ‘L.A.’s Hipster Cinema’, Film Quarterly, vol.63, no.1, Fall 2009, pp.56—67.

  31. This is the strategy employed by the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle. See http://www.starandshadow.org.uk/ (last accessed on 21 November 2011).

  32. For background information on this research process see the press release accompanying von Wedemeyer’s exhibition ‘Sun Cinema’ at Galerie Jocelyn Wolff, Paris, 29 April — 2 July 2011, available at http://www.galeriewolff.com/content/us_exhibitions/CvW_Sun_Cinema_English_lr.pdf (last accessed on 19 October 2011).

  33. The press release is available at the British Council’s website: http://www.britishcouncil.org/ my_city__press.pdf (last accessed on 12 November 2011).