Introduced by Quinn Latimer
16mm negative transferred to HD, 9'1''
Echoing the procedures and documentary practices of the Avant-garde, the project takes the related but cameraless 70mm abstract Salt Crystals Spiral Jetty Dead Sea Five Year Film as its subject.
Saline bodies, water. Buckets, film. Materiality, memory. Erosion, elision. Time, travel. Spiral, Jetty. Salt Lake, Dead Sea. Jennifer West’s fervent materialism is by now well documented—strewn as her films are with materials, which she then indexes in her paragraph-long titles—as are the dialectical relationships she plumbs with awesome hallucinatory fever. Likewise, her films Spiral of Time Documentary Film and Salt Crystals Spiral Jetty Dead Sea Five Year Film (both 2013) materialize—no, metabolize—more of these things. Travelogues in the elliptical way that Tony Conrad’s black painted frames on paper, his seventies-era “Yellow Movies,” were movies, West’s recent films are admixtures of shot images and abstract, material traces, in the acid-y palette that is her signature. But if her previous works conjured the early abstract cinema of Hans Richter and Walter Ruttmann, among others, her new works were conceived in spirit with Robert Smithson and Chris Marker, and their poetic, speculative travelogues—sculptural and cinematic, respectively—that were both cosmically and earthily concerned with place and time.
In particular, Marker’s dystopic classic San Soleil enters West’s Spiral of Time in the form of sporadic subtitles gleaned from Marker’s script, among them the gnomic observation of an “eternal magnetic tape of a time that will have to reread itself constantly just to know it existed.” Splashing against the yellow subtitles are magenta sunspots and day-glo blue lines that unspool like chem trails across the landscapes of the Dead Sea, in the Middle East, and Spiral Jetty, in the US, and their unmistakable features, some prosaic, some poetic, some elemental, some not. See the plastic white lawn chairs littering the shore of the Dead Sea like teeth, or the security checkpoints trashing Palestine’s Occupied Territories. See too the wind-ruffled surfaces of the two flat bodies of water—sometimes interchangeable—and the rocks plucked from Spiral Jetty.
Images of the two locations on Google Maps are zoomed in on, conjuring the aerial-view aesthetics and attendant ideologies of Charles and Ray Eames’s seminal short film Powers of Ten, made for IBM in 1977. West’s double- and triple-exposed film includes both analogue and digital processes (the filmmaker occasionally shot footage of her computer screen with clear film overlays), placing both strategies inside the same frame. Painted with brine shrimp—this is a West film, after all—and “dripped, splattered, and sprayed” with vinegar, lemon juice, and fluorescent hair dye, the 16mm film evokes a long summer of cinematic referents: mid-century modernism, late-century psychedelia, speculative cinema, the poetic travelogue.
Salt Crystals Spiral Jetty Dead Sea Five Year Film, meanwhile, explores temporality in an even more material, literal way. Physical erosion “marks” the 70mm abstract, camera-less film, which was floated in the Dead Sea, soaked in clay, then taken back to LA to sit in studio buckets full of mud and salt for five years. The alchemical corrosion of the film emulsion and the Dead Sea’s organic materials wasn’t enough for West, though. She wasn’t nearly done. In the winter of 2013, in Utah, she dragged the film along the spiraling, salt-encrusted rocks of Spiral Jetty and dunked it in the pink waters at the center of Smithson’s Jetty. If the pebbly, white-and-brown-and-red film doesn’t tell this story, it points to it. For the reliquary of salt, mud, and sand on the film is left visible via a hand-transfer process, in which each frame was digitally photographed, then reassembled in Final Cut Pro. West stitched the film together back-lit (as in a traditional telecine), and then top-lit (as in an untransparent macro photo), so that it moves decisively between modes of transparency and opacity. And this dialectical relationship conjures the others that West’s newest films raise. Geology, geopolitics. Heat, cold. Artists, exhibitions. Material, memory. Abstraction, figuration. Salt Lake, Dead Sea. Film, history.
Spiral of Time Documentary Film (16mm negative strobe-light double and triple exposed - painted with brine shrimp - dripped, splattered and sprayed with salted liquids: balsamic and red wine vinegar, lemon and lime juice, temporary flourescent hair dyes - photos from friends Mark Titchner, Karen Russo, Aaron Moulton and Ignacio Uriarte and some google maps- texts by Jwest and Chris Markers' Sans Soleil script - shot by Peter West, strobed by Jwest, hands by Ariel West, telecine by Tom Sartori)
2013, 9 minutes, 1 second 16mm negative transferred to high-definition
Film by Jennifer West
Commissioned by Utah Museum of Contemporary ArtCurated by Aaron MoultonFirst exhibited in “Mondo Utah: Utah Biennial”
Text Written by Jennifer West featuring two quotes from the script of Chris Marker's film, "San Soleil" (1983)Cinematography: Peter WestCinematographic in-camera strobe and double and triple exposure design and sequencing: JwestStrobe Lights/Overlays/Image cycling/Filmstrip Material Processing (brine shrimp, salt, juices, hair dyes): JwestStill photographs: Karen Russo, Aaron Moulton, Iganacio Uriarte and JwestMap videos: GooglemapsHands: Ariel West and JwestTelecine: Tom Sartori, Fotokem Lab, Burbank, California
Courtesy of the Artist, Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles and Vilma Gold, London