Through A Different Lens

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A two-part exhibition at Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, in Washington D.C., "The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image" considers how contemporary cinema -- here loosely defined to encompass "such related moving-image media as television, home video and digital entertainment" -- has further obscured the boundary of fiction and reality. In the first part, "Dreams," Candice Breitz, Julian Rosefeldt, Pierre Huyghe and others approached the history of cinema through sampling and reenactment. "Realisms," opening this Thursday, will shift the focus to works exploring "the confrontation between control and freedom in a cinematic age." In its examination of this topic, the exhibition will identify the mass-media's capacity to sculpt a partial yet dominant account of contemporary and historical events and, in turn, the ability of artists using the moving-image to offer alternative narrations and interpretations of such events. Notable among these is Jeremy Deller's The Battle of Orgreave (2001), a filmed reenactment of a culminating moment in Britain's 1984 National Union of Mineworkers Strike. Between clips of veteran miners and professional historical performers reconstructing the violence between strikers and cavalry police, Deller inserts photographs of the original event and interviews with NUM member David Douglass, politician Tony Benn and others, who reflect upon the nature of the strike, the media's distortion of its events, and the long-term ramifications for British society. Omer Fast's Godville (2005) is another standout: a 50-minute, two-channel video of interviews with historical reenactors at Colonial Williamsburg. While Fast elides himself as interviewer from the work, his hand is conspicuously present in the montage, as disparate audio snippets from interviewees (either spoken about their profession or in the voice of their historical personae) are woven into seamless monologues. This makes an apt treatment of the living-history museum, and suggests this fascination with historical return to be symptomatic of a broader anxiety about the present trajectory of American society. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Jeremy Deller, Battle of Orgreave, 2001