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Matt Saunders: Stop.Move.

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A face, a hand, a cigarette, a woman: all emerge and just as quickly dissolve in the palpitating patches of black and white that make up Matt Saunders' simply stunning three-channel film installation currently on view at Blum & Poe. Set in the gallery's largest room, with each projection on a single wall, the piece pulses between figure and ground, image and story, gesture and stasis, history and memory, a terrific example certainly of the show's emphasis on stop motion techniques (the show is titled Stop.Move.). But it's a lot more than that.
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Thanks to the flicker effect, images begin to hover in front of the wall on which they're projected, and bits of story take shape in the animation loops. The loops in turn contain loops, the story unfolding through repetition and occasional difference, and in its movement across the space of the gallery, where certain gestures are repeated in the differing projections. Standing in the center of the gallery, the largest screen features images of bicycles in motion; the two side stories are more suggestive, hinting at characters and events. Watching all three at once is too much perceptual chaos for comfort; sitting and taking in each projection one by one deeply satisfies, the experience being at once perceptual, visceral and cognitive, a memory that can only appear in the lush but violent throbbing of black and white.
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Saunders' process is like a hall of mirrors. He paints on mylar with ink to create small images that are derived from photographs and film stills. These paintings become negatives in a photographic process, and the resulting images are then animated. The hybrid process creates works that hover between film and painting, as well as the past and present, creating a passage way between the two. And indeed, the project, titled Passageworks, references German philosopher Walter Benjamin's sprawling "Passage-Work" or Arcades Project, composed between 1927 and 1940 and made up of snippets of writings and quotations that center on the increasing commodification of everyday life in Germany. Like the installation, the book is never experienced as finished, and is often celebrated for swinging from conceptual analysis to material emphasis. Saunders' project echoes this transformative möbius strip, forever oscillating to create an exuberant experience of suspended animation, an experience that indeed might be said to characterize contemporary film and video installation as it grows increasingly interdisciplinary.

The Stop.Move. show also features animated projects by Robin Rhode, Hirsch Perlman and Nathalie Djurberg, and is on display through December 22 at Blum & Poe.

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