Dane Picard: Big Picture
Whether it's Simon Leung squatting in Berlin as a way of using the subject within the urban environment to make visible the expulsion of the Vietnamese community from Germany in 1992, or Michael Asher dragging a weathered bronze statue of George Washington inside to its period room in the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago to recontextualize the statue and shift its meaning, Pluralism still doesn't seem appropriate as a term to address contemporary art production. Because of the cumulative effects on visual culture by a broad range of theorists and writers, and artists such as Duchamp and Warhol, Robert Smithson and Mary Kelly, art can absorb any subject, position, process, act or gesture. Everything is available for scrutiny, and it's this scrutinizing that the artist engages in that is resonant. It's the constituent elements, what they signify and how this shifts when repositioned or contextualized within new constellations that produces the uncanny moment. The complexities involved in an artist's practice come about through this process of uncovering, and seeing is redefined, not denied.
The films that Dane Picard makes allow the viewer to see the edges of things. Even in how the videos are presented is of interest, because it's not the seductive cocoon of the darkened theatre, where the viewer is physically overwhelmed by the environment. It's negotiated instead within the bright light of the exhibition space, allowing the viewer to maintain a physical and perceptual autonomy. Picard's exhibition in June 2005 at Richard Heller Gallery, titled Flourish, featured several single-channel video loops displayed on LCD monitors, hand-held devices and by projection. Each video presents a magician performing what is termed a 'flourish'. As distinct from a magic trick, a flourish is described as a unique way of "presenting, manipulating and playing with everyday objects," such as cards, coins, cigarettes, or simply one's own hands. The flourish is necessary because 'magic' is a choreographed gesture meant to be repeated; there is no invention. Each video composites several tricks occurring onscreen: the frame is tightly cropped to the magician's hands, with the sounds of the magician breathing, the noises that the fingers make snapping a lighter open, or the sound of hands handling a deck of cards surrounding the visuals. As the different magicians go throught each evolution of their performance, it becomes clear where these mechanics end and the point of individuation begins. Because the videos loop, there is an opportunity to observe this delicate seam. It's like the aspect in painting or drawing, where the deviations in form from a perfect copy are accused of accumulating into style.
It's key that he makes this match between film and magic; the impossible task is achieved either through the choreography of the trick, or accomplished through filmic means. The camera colludes with the magician; fingers appear to be missing, and are then reattached by the opposite hand. Concealed beyond line-of-sight, the fingers of the magician's hand were dropped back behind the palm, like a shadow cast by the moon. Where magician Dan Wilson flips a cigarette into his mouth from his extended arm, the footage then reverses, and the cigarette is brought back into his hand (too) precisely. Through this technological means of representation, the body is redefined by this capacity. Technology extends human capability, acting here as a prosthetic for the performer.
An intimate story located in the public space of the gallery, Picard's video titled Portraits, IDs and Snapshots #2 from 2000, features a series of still photographs taken of Picard from infancy through to the present, which morph one into the other. "A river of images flowing continuously across the screen, "(1) it's not the separate, distinct image, the snapshot by itself, but what's between the images and how it accumulates that is the work's ground of transformation. It presents the subject seductively, the shapes of life playing themselves out in a matter of seconds, mesmerizing and unnerving the viewer. Still, Picard's face seems to stabilize somehow within the whorl of animation; it remains static while the individual characteristics of each separate snapshot shift from one into the next. The video makes use of the medium in a way that challenges it; it reveals the pause, the economy of absence through the effect of the animation and how it plays with a variety of scales in personal time. Removing the bank of time within one's own history (as constructed by snapshot), the animation forces the portraits into a temporal and formal compression. Frustrating the single point of view, the shape-shifting portraits produce a sense of materiality in the digitized images and show a progressive development between form, time and space. Video shows this capacity for a compelling dimensional presence through the critical structuring used by Picard, and by other artists, such as the use of multiplicity by Stan Douglas in Win, Place or Show, or the narrative connectivity of the synchronized dual projections in Shirin Neshat's Rapture. It reflects on our own condition, pornographic in its way, about obsession and excess, processed through the nature of the sublime, the overwhelming encounter which leaves one outside language.
(1) From a review by Jody Zellen, Art Papers, Mar/Apr 2004.