Whitney: Dreamlands & Jenny Perlin / by Cornelius

On Friday, November 18th we journeyed back to the Whitney to see the "new media" exhibition entitled Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art 1905-2016 and later had a studio visit with one of the artists included in the exhibition, Jenny Perlin. I have to point out right now that this was by far my favorite visit to the city all semester--it inspired me to think outside of traditional means of art when considering my own work.

Wow. I walked into Dreamlands not knowing what to expect but after I took a few passes through the space, I could not wipe the smile off of my face. It was incredible. My favorite type of art is the kind where I can feel like I'm a part of it and lose myself--this whole exhibition successfully brought me to other worlds. It is hard to pick favorites but I think I can safely say that two works of art in particular left me in complete and total awe: Mathias Poledna’s Imitation of Life and Anthony McCall's Line Describing a Cone.

Poledna worked closely with disney animators to recreate the traditional medium of animation. This required over 5000 hand-drawn and painted cells and backgrounds. This is such an incredible project to take on in the age of technology we are in now considering how much easier it would have been to make this digitally. However, it is this mechanically tedious process that brings such life to the animation and puts the work into a different context in the world of art. Stripping away the excess in animation brings us to McCall's hypnotic piece. I walked into the room before the film began rolling; it was completely dark and I wasn't exactly sure if I was even allowed to be in there. I found a spot on the wall after slowly inching my way through with my arms out in front of me incase I ran into something. The projection started and I found my spot in the space. I felt as if I was in a sensory depravation chamber (well, besides vision and the sound of the film reel) staring at the line slowly draw a circle onto the black wall and creating a cone of light. Because there were no outside visual distractions I felt completely hypnotized by this light and lost track of time. I have never before felt so engaged in a work of art before--it reminded me of how Lee told us to think of minimalist works of art as if it was music without lyrics focusing on how it makes you feel.     

  After leaving the Whitney filled to the brim with inspiration for my own work, we got to see the behind the scenes of Jenny Perlin's work at her new studio. She was very enthusiastic about meeting with us and it made me much more comfortable asking her some questions and pointing out some observations I saw. I asked her what her very first animation was (if she could remember it), and I was expecting her to just say a little flip-book. I was shocked to hear how innovative her 3rd grade art teacher was with teaching traditional cell style animation. It was cool to hear her go back in time with her while she thought about her cloud and rainbow animation because you could tell that it brought back fond memories. She also mentioned that since that art class, she hasn't really changed with the work she was producing in terms of medium. This was very interesting to hear because it shows how much of the past is poured into her recent art. After viewing her new silent film I found it funny that her work is being made with vintage methods (film) and how it looks ancient basically but there were little confusing hints of the present embedded in it--such as hyperlinks. She said she was glad that I noticed this because she too finds a bit of humor in that relationship between the old and new creating a strange moment of confusion.