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Opening | 30.10.2008, 7.00 p.m.
Exhibition dates: | 31.10.2008 - 16.11.2008
Venue | Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Main Buliding, Schillerplatz 3, 1010 Vienna, Great Hall and Exhibition Space
Opening Hours: daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., free admission
 
© Mark Lewis: Background to "The Fight"
 

Opening | 30 October 2008, 7 p.m.
Welcome address and introduction | Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen, Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

With "The Fight" and "Prater Hauptallee, Dawn and Dusk," the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna presents Mark Lewis's most recent works, produced in the context of an art project with students at the Academy's Research Lab for Film and Television. In his photographs and films, Mark Lewis, born in Hamilton, Canada, in 1958 and living in London today, explores the structure and imagery of the cinema. Both for his 35 mm films and his color photographs, he relies on the formal means of expression and the technical, logistic apparatus of the film industry. His work reflects on the visual power and the codes of moving images examining  their historical relationship to the depictive arts, while at the same time examining conventional filmic devices.

In his Viennese productions, for which he used the HDCAM format for the first time, he focused his research interest on the process of rear projection and its potential "to produce both illusion and a modernist montage of different perspectival spaces." Two additional works from 2006 and a "making-of" video contextualize the process.

Kunsthalle Wien shows two films by the artist as part of the exhibition "Western Motel. Edward Hopper and Contemporary Art," to be seen until 15 February 2009.

Le Grand Café, Centre d'art contemporain, in Saint-Nazaire, France, presents a solo show dedicated to Mark Lewis until 30 November 2008. Lewis will represent Canada at the 2009 Venice Biennial.

The Fight (2008)

The idea for The Fight came from an event that I witnessed last Christmas in a market in the South West of France. While I was shopping for vegetables, two groups of people arranged themselves into direct confrontation with each other, more or less blocking the street in front of me. I had no idea what precipitated this event, but it was clear that the situation was charged with danger. I was struck by how this confrontation was composed in such a predictable and recognisable way: the racial stereotyping of the two groups (an apparent family of Roma descent vs. white working-class thugs); the parrying backwards and forwards; the exchange of insults; and the endless pulling back at the last instant, each participant reluctant, or even afraid to take the event to its logical conclusion. A certain choreography gave form to this confrontation, one that each individual involved in the drama seemed to understand, perhaps unconsciously, and one that seemed to have its roots not necessarily in the event itself, but in the practiced imitation of familiar representations from television and film, and even photography and painting. I understood the participants in this particular event that I witnessed as stock characters or clichés, they themselves acting out their version of a great historical drama of confrontation that has been central to the history of depiction.

The Fight_2   © Mark Lewis: The Fight, 2008, high definition video, 5 minutes and 31 seconds, production of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, film still
Courtesy of the artist and galerie serge le borgne, Paris
 

The intense choreography and changing composition of the event-bodies assembling and falling away, limbs lurching forwards and falling back, faces contorting with anger and hatred-reminded me that the only thing that remained composed in all of this was my own frozen body and the bodies of other spectators as we all looked on, unable to turn away. I knew immediately that I wanted to make a film of this experience, more particularly of the experience of being there as a spectator, frozen by something that continually composed and decomposed in front of my very eyes. I decided to work with the exact moment when things almost became something (the moment when a real fight looked as if it may finally begin) and to prolong it, to stretch it out to what would seem like an eternity-in order to try and make another kind of confrontation, the confrontation between what I saw and what I as a spectator became there and then, the subject of the film itself.

I shot The Fight using the process of rear projection. Rear projection was a familiar filmic process from the 1930's up until the 1960's, and its introduction into Hollywood films had practical advantages: it allowed the stars of films to appear as if they were on locations or in moving vehicles when they were in fact on sound stages. But it might be useful to consider this moment, the moment when film finally 'understood' that it could put itself inside of itself, as the moment when the medium become truly modern and when it achieved, almost without knowing, a modernist form every bit as inventive and startling as similar achievements in the fields of painting and photography.

The Fight_1   © Mark Lewis: The Fight, 2008, high definition video, 5 minutes and 31 seconds, production of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, film still
Courtesy of the artist and galerie serge le borgne, Paris
 

Using rear projection in The Fight of course also had real practical advantages: we could shoot many takes over a number of days without having to worry about what was happening in the background (the light would not change, the people in the background would endlessly repeat their actions perfectly) and we could instead focus on the action in the foreground. But there were also aesthetic reasons for this decision. For instance, by using rear-screen we introduced a compositional effect that I thought might underline the choreographic nature of both the original event and its restaging some months later in Vienna. The background film is more or less 'real', that is to say it is a document of a real place and a real scene (a daily market in Vienna [Brunnenmarkt]), albeit one where relatively small interventions were made (some spaces were blocked off, some extras were paid to pass through, and other people walking by were encouraged to look at the camera). But nevertheless it is a document of everyday life, and much that happens there is unscripted and accidental. In The Fight the rear-projected images of the market can be understood as the insertion of a filmic real into the wholly fictional space of the studio where the fight itself was staged.

By montaging together these two different filmic images The Fight tries, however subtly, to 'make strange' what is depicted in order to release that depiction from the realm of the cliché and do this without introducing unnecessary theatricality, at least this is what I hoped. It is the very modernity of this montage effect (film putting itself inside of itself) that I believe allows for a reflection on the materiality of the process. Just as in other modernist art forms, the montage effect can give us somewhere to look or to think just as the content itself-here, the endlessly composing and decomposing bodies-threatens to overwhelm any possibility for critical reflection. In other words I think that in the montage of front and back filmic images, we might get a sense of how confrontations like these-familiar, often dangerous and steeped in the politics of the everyday-draw their own strength from other images and that in turn produce us as modern subjects or spectators. And as pictorial subjects-that is to say as people who look at the depictions of everyday life-maybe we are able to consider how the things we see and witness in the 'real' can change us (not always in productive or even interesting ways) even if, and especially because on these occasions we can find ourselves absorbed, frozen even, as if gazing at the endless history of representations of the same.

I would like to thank everyone at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna for helping me to realise this project and in particular Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen for inviting me; Bettina Henkel for coordinating the project; Friedemann Derschmidt for generous support in all aspects of the project; Ludwig Löckinger for his masterful ingenuity and tireless work; the professional crew and actors for their patience and physical hard work; Ruth Lackner for organising the exhibition; Richard Hilbert for technical support; and finally all the students who worked professional and diligently and treated the project as if were their own.

Mark Lewis
October 2008

Prater Hauptallee, Dawn and Dusk (2008)

Basically, Prater Hauptallee, Dawn and Dusk consists of an image divided into a right and a left image or time zone. The two zones are connected by an exact seam and present themselves as one albeit artificially composed image. The divergence of the two halves from each other is not only revealed by their different, if gradually changing coloring - a contrary change of lighting caused by nature spanning until the end of the video - but also by the work's title: the left side is dedicated to dawn, the right side to dusk. Mark Lewis mirrors two continuously stretching time axes, as it were, in two unedited shots in parallel presentation.

PraterHauptallee_08   © Mark Lewis: Prater Hauptallee, Dawn and Dusk, 2008, high definition video, 17 minutes, production of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, film still
Courtesy of the artist and galerie serge le borgne, Paris
 

He chose the "blue hour" between sunset and darkness and the time before sunrise. Particularly photography, from which Lewis turned to making films in the mid-nineties, prefers this time because of its special quality of light. The formal backbone is provided by the artificial light source in the center of the image which illuminates both halves in a way resulting in identical light and shadow formations. The splitting of the screen also unfolds two different semi-documentary spaces: while the right half is initially filling up with people, the left half is empty and deserted rather.
PraterHauptallee_02   © Mark Lewis: Prater Hauptallee, Dawn and Dusk, 2008, high definition video, 17 minutes, production of the Academie of Arts Academy Vienna, film still Courtesy of the artist and galerie serge le borgne, Paris   The movement of the passersby - joggers, cyclists, strollers - is mostly directed into the depth of the scene or, geographically speaking, toward the city. Only occasionally, somebody walks, runs, or rides toward the camera, to which no special attention is paid. The attractions occur at the temporal and spatial seam that both connects and separates the two halves: bodies divide in half or merge, disappear or reappear in an almost playful manner. The artist seems to leave the choreography of reconnoitering to everyday coincidences. He transposes the dead straight "artery" of the entertainment and leisure area, as the Prater Alley is called sometimes, into a complex spatial structure, elegantly harmonizing conceptual, semi-documentary, poetic, and formally aesthetic dimensions.

Dietmar Schwärzler, film and media communicator, freelance curator and writer, works for sixpackfilm, member of the editorial staff of the film magazine kolik.film, member of the Advisory Board of the Academy's Research Lab for Film and Television
(from the article "Vom Brunnenmarkt in die blaue Stunde. Zu zwei Videos von Mark Lewis," forthcoming in "die bildende 04").

Rear Projection: Molly Parker (2006)

Rear Projection: Molly Parker (2006), features the actress Molly Parker (from TV's "Six Feet Under" and "Deadwood"). In this 'film-portrait' of the actress, Parker is filmed against rear projected footage of a deserted restaurant and gas station in rural Ontario, Canada. For this background film, an identical slow contra-zoom was shot in both winter and summer. The spatial dislocation created by this process, together with a similar process used in the studio montage of Molly Parker and the background, calls to mind the playful use of spatial composition in paintings such as "The Virgin of Chancellor Rolin" by Early Netherlandish painter Jan van Eyck or Edouard Manet's early-modernist "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère".

RearProjection_1   © Mark Lewis: Rear Projection: Molly Parker, 2006, 35 mm transferred to high definition, 4 minutes, production of FACT Liverpool, film still Courtesy of the artist and galerie serge le borgne, Paris  

In February 2005, Lewis explains in the initial proposal to FACT
(Liverpool-which co-commissioned this film) his choice of actress as follows:"I invited Molly Parker to be the actress in this film for several reasons. I felt it was important that the film should depict someone who is recognizable, not necessarily in name, but crucially in terms of style and performance (i.e. she is an actress). In addition, Molly Parker's 'neutral' look has, in my opinion, an uncanny similarity to the way female subjects were often depicted in early modern portrait painting and in turn in the early modern cinema of the 20's and 30's (when rear projection was introduced). This look can be characterized I think as a complex combination of idealization and individuality, a look that is both universal and unique at the same time."

RearProjection_2   © Mark Lewis: Rear Projection: Molly Parker, 2006, 35 mm transferred to high definition, 4 minutes, production of FACT Liverpool, film still Courtesy of the artist and galerie serge le borgne, Paris  

Spadina: Reverse Dolly, Zoom, Nude (2006)

Spadina: Reverse Dolly, Zoom, Nude, 2006, is something like a story's climax, a long zoom leading to a seemingly important shot. But there's no story, only a character.

The camera pulls back slowly from an opening shot of foliage, maybe sycamore, sunlight dappling through the leaves, to reveal the grassy hill where the tree is rooted. A van drives by on a level street behind what must be Spadina Avenue in Toronto.
Spadina_1   © Mark Lewis: Spadina: Reverse Dolly, zoom, nude, 2006, 35 mm transferred to high definition, 2 minutes 55 seconds, film still
Courtesy of the artist and galerie serge le borgne, Paris
 
As the camera continues to move backward, a modern high-rise apartment building with wraparound balconies comes into view behind the tree; suddenly, the camera quickly zooms in above the treetop, toward the building, to reveal a naked girl standing on a balcony.
Spadina_2   © Mark Lewis: Spadina: Reverse Dolly, zoom, nude, 2006, 35 mm transferred to high definition, 2 minutes, 55 seconds, film still
Courtesy of the artist and galerie serge le borgne, Paris
 

The film ends there, the girl charging its denouement with implied but unspecified suggestions of meaning-an artistic effect that makes these films (an much other art besides) pique the imagination.

Jeff Rian
(in Artforum, December 2007, Vol. XLVI, No. 4, p. 365)

Making-of
Artistic Research - Example Given # 1
Mark Lewis

Parallel to the production of the artist's work, the students' Making-of documents the production process and the issues and research-relevant developments arising from it. Making-of provides insights into the artistic research practice and its implicit technological, aesthetic and theoretical challenges. The fact that the filmic documentation of artistic research itself becomes a subject of aesthetic and artistic investigation elucidates the immediacy with which the production of research may find its place in the practice of teaching.
Text: Andreas Spiegl

Interviews with Mark Lewis, Richard Hilbert (production team, Computer Studio of the Academy), Ludwig Löckinger (production manager, director of photography), Nicole Szolga (camera, editing Making-of), Dietmar Schwärzler (Film and media communicator, freelance curator and writer, works for sixpackfilm, member of the editorial staff of the film magazine kolik.film, member of the Advisory Board of the Academy's Research Lab for Film and Television) conducted by Lukas Heistinger, Angelika Stadler and Nicole Szolga.

Camera | Cäcilia Brown, Katharina Cibulka, Thomas Lehner, Angelika Stadler, Nicole Szolga Post production | Editing | Angelika Stadler, Nicole Szolga Mastering | Peter Gruber Interviews | Lukas Heistinger, Angelika Stadler, Nicole Szolga Subtitles | Clarissa Gadsden

Project team | Production | Christine Bentele, Florian Brüggler, Friedemann Derschmidt, Bettina Henkel, Richard Hilbert, Reinhard Kirnich, Ludwig Löckinger, Thomas Posch, Richard Reisenberger, Oliver Schneider Students | Cäcilia Brown, Katharina Cibulka, Christoph Freidhöfer, Philipp Fleischmann, Jan Groos, Peter Gruber, Lukas Heistinger, Krzysztof Kaczmarek, Christoph Kolar, Thomas Lehner, Elsa Okazaki, Simona Reisch, Angelika Stadler, Nicole Szolga Cast "The Fight" | Martin Brandau, Walter Bergmann, Irena Hadjieva, Marian Hadjieva, Isabella Kappert, David Rumetshofer, Alexander Strobl, Milorad Stanrovic, Sofija Jovanovic

Making-of   Mark Lewis, making-of, film still  

Translation: Wolfgang Astelbauer