The remake: what's it good for?
Often the bane of audiences at the megaplex, the remake is oddly one of the most popular forms gracing gallery and museum screens around the world. Rather than diligently recreating the original, however, artists making - or remaking - old films tend to dissect, elaborate, scrutinize, question and even mutilate their sources, using the original material as fodder for new ideas and concerns.
LA><ART is currently home to a prime example of the form, namely Silvia Kolbowski's video After Hiroshima Mon Amour, which revisits Alain Resnais' enigmatic 1959 film Hiroshima Mon Amour, starring Emmanuelle Riva as a French actress who has an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada). Their passionate encounter takes place in Hiroshima, and the city triggers memories of pain and suffering, which disrupt the story's timeline with a series of flashbacks, creating an intriguing story puzzle. For her 22-minute video, the New York-based Kolbowski cast new actors to reenact key scenes. However, she provocatively disrupts the nationalities and genders of her performers, having several different actors play the same two characters. She also includes washes of color over black-and-white imagery, and sound and image are invariably fractured. Text at the bottom of the screen conveys another layer of information, and the sound effects and music combine to create yet another, often distinct, level to perceive and interpret.
The array of information unsettles any kind of stability and prompts a series of questions that require connecting the new video to the original film. How are they in dialogue? What's Kolbowski's critique? How does power shift when the French woman and Asian man are now a Black woman and a white man? And how can we even designate race and ethnicity visually?
These questions are raised but not answered; this video isn't about resolution. Instead, it's about returning and revision. It's also about a shift away from directing and storytelling to editing and remixing. The narrative form that Resnais' film disrupted so beautifully 50 years ago has been replaced by the computational impulse and the desire to visualize information and elaborate connections. Unlike many video remakes, After Hiroshima Mon Amour does not simply enact a gimmick that viewers figure out and then continue on. Instead, it's as intriguing as Resnais' project, both in its emphasis on war and specific politics, and in its form, which leaves behind the film and enters the world of data.
- After Hiroshima Mon Amour, video installation"¨
- 2640 South La Cienega Boulevard
- Through November 1, 2008