Time Telling

Some of the features on this page require that JavaScript be enabled.
view previous artwork view next artwork
Las Vegas
motion picture film strips, coloured gels, florescent light, plexiglass, abstract design, abstract expressionism, pattern, photographic light table, light, time, space, rhythm, montage, cubism, readymades, non-traditional materials, illusion, collage, photography, curate, sculptural light boxes, installation, film-maker, popular culture, compositions mixed media, abstract expressionism, light, time, space, rhythm, texture, illusion, popular culture, film industry, montage, memory, cubism,
description

When viewing a Richard Kerr light box from a distance, a viewer is attracted to an  abstractImagery which departs from representational accuracy, to a variable range of possible degrees. Abstract artists select and then exaggerate or simplify the forms suggested by the world around them.  (Artlex.com)   designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  that glows with brilliant colour. The work seems to demand a closer inspection, and with that, the artist’s achievement is revealed. Kerr has overlapped and woven discarded strips of motion picture film (his own personal productions or out-takes from  commercialPertaining to making money, i.e., creating art in order to sell it, rather than creating art for purely aesthetic purposes.  productions) over a light box. Writer Bart Testa calls them a combination of ‘spectacle and intimacy‘. (Testa, 2001)

A  dichotomyDivision into two; especially, the division of a class into two subclasses opposed to each other by contradiction, as the division of day and night. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  is presented by this work - the selected materials change from the noisy traditional film with large and rapidly moving images powered by technology, to tiny silent lifeless strips of images repeated and interwoven on a light box. The ordinary strips of tiny images are transposed to become beautiful backlit transparencies that suggest an altar or the heavenly light of a stained glass window. The selection and arrangement of the colours and images embedded in the filmstrips creates an abstract  patternRepeating lines, colours or shapes within a design.  that can also be compared to paintings of  abstract expressionistAn artist who paints in the Abstract expressionist style.  artists of the 1950s and '60s. (See the ARTSask theme Beyond Representation for more information on abstract expressionism.)

start quoteAgain, it's just a case of working with materials: ideas will pop up.end quote -- Richard Kerr

The idea of placing the photographer’s light table on its side was used initially to present more visible and appealing signage or advertising in the automobile-based popular culture. In 1977, photographer Jeff Wall (whose artwork is presented in the ARTSask theme Technobabble) was one of the first artists who saw the potential of using a light box to enliven and monumentalize his photographic images. But Kerr’s purpose is somewhat different. He uses the light box, film footage, and his knowledge of film and film-making processes to create a dialogue about film. In an 1998 article Jack Anderson wrote the following about Kerr’s work: “Expressed here are what he sees as fundamental abstract notions at the heart of all films, regardless of subject: light, time,  spaceSpace can be the area around, within or between images or elements. Space can be created on a two-dimensional surface by using such techniques as overlapping, object size, placement, colour intensity and value, detail and diagonal lines.  and rhythm.” (Anderson, 1998)

Lee-Ann Martin gives further insights into Kerr’s work in the  catalogueA list which is an inventory of works in a gallery, museum, or other collection. It describes the works, and may contain articles discussing their history, and classifying them in other ways. It may be in the form of a file of cards (or an electronic equivalent), one card for each object, or in the form of a publication (usually a pamphlet or book), whether for a special exhibition or for all or part of a permanent collection.  (Artlex.com)  for After the Motion Picture Series, “In Las Vegas, Kerr uses out-takes from his 1992 film, Cruel Rhythm, that combines landscape  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (Artlex.com)  from the American southwest with abstractions produced using a high speed shutter and a spinning turret  cameraIn photography, a tool for producing photographs, having a lightproof enclosure with an aperture and a shuttered lens through which the image of an object is focused and recorded on a photosensitive film or plate. In video, a device that receives the primary image on a light-sensitive cathode tube and transforms it into electrical impulses. (Artlex.com) Find out about 35-mm cameras at Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/135_film  mount.  The play between palm trees and the flame (symbol of destruction) give the work a suggestively Christian interpretation. The cross is emblazoned on the  compositionArrangements of elements in a work of art.  by applying coloured gel to the Plexiglas  mountTo attach securely to a support, as when an artwork on paper is affixed to a sheet of cardboard or another flat and rigid material. Or, to place one or more works in an appropriate site for display, as when a gallery mounts an exhibition. Or the object onto which something is affixed for display. It may be important to choose materials and techniques that are archival (acid-free) and either permanent or reversible. (Artlex.com)  behind the strips.  Las Vegas is an example of Kerr’s intent to compress time in a new format, compacting 600 feet of film representing approximately 12 minutes of time.”(Martin, 1998)

Kerr uses the  techniqueAny method of working with art materials to produce an art object. Often implied is the sense that techniques are carefully studied, exacting, or traditional, but this is not necessarily the case. Examples include basketry, blotting, carving, constructing, découpage, embossing, encaustic, exquisite corpse, firing, folding, hatching, kerning, laminating, marbling, modeling, necking. (artlex.com)   known as  montageA single pictorial composition made by juxtaposing or overlapping many pictures or designs. The art or process of making such a composition. Also, a rapid succession of different images or shots in a movie. (Artlex.com)  to create this work, a method which has different meanings for film and visual art. In film-making, montage is a  styleA way of doing something. Use of materials, methods of working, design qualities and choice of subject matter reflect the style of the individual, culture, movement, or time period.  that involves a number of cuts and  cameraIn photography, a tool for producing photographs, having a lightproof enclosure with an aperture and a shuttered lens through which the image of an object is focused and recorded on a photosensitive film or plate. In video, a device that receives the primary image on a light-sensitive cathode tube and transforms it into electrical impulses. (Artlex.com) Find out about 35-mm cameras at Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/135_film  changes to suggest other meanings beyond the action presented. It can also be a device used to condense time and suggest memories and states of mind. In visual art, montage has its roots in cubism. In the early twentieth century, artists working in the cubist  traditionTradition is the passing along of a culture from generation to generation, especially orally. Or, a custom or set of customs handed down in this way. The idea of heritage is related to that of tradition. Any activity — as a pattern of celebration, ritual, or other behaviour, etc. — is traditional once it is a precedent influencing comparable activities in the future. (Artlex.com)  used ready-made or discarded images and objects in their art making. Their resulting works were often considered to be outrageous and at that time, challenged the public’s ideas of what art was.

While primarily a film-maker, in Las Vegas Kerr is also a ‘painter of light‘. He weaves hundreds of feet of discarded film into his seductively beautiful meditative compositions. He crosses over between film and visual art and combines non-traditional materials and methods in novel ways to present ideas related to time and illusion, the film industry and popular culture.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • How do Kerr’s works relate to time? Are they about no time passing? do they represent “captured time?”
  • Think about Hollywood films and the hype that exists about the rich and famous. Watch samples of both independently-produced art films and Hollywood blockbusters. Think about some of the similarities and differences between these two genres, and discuss them with your fellow students and teachers.
  • Why would Kerr title this work Las Vegas? How could the title reflect ideas associated with post-modernism/post-modernity?
  • The Hollywood film industry is concerned with acquiring huge box-office receipts. Think about big business and how business and commerce are connected to the arts. What kind of power does business have within the film industry? How do you think this has affected the film industry? What effects does this have on you, the patron?
Online Activity
Hello, you either have JavaScript turned off or an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.

Create your own Richard Kerr light box.  To do this:

Studio Activity

Create a short film

Lee-Ann Martin states in the After the Motion Picture Series catalogue, “In Las Vegas, Kerr uses out-takes from his 1992 film, Cruel Rhythm, that combines landscape  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (Artlex.com)  from the American southwest with abstractions produced using a high speed shutter and a spinning turret  cameraIn photography, a tool for producing photographs, having a lightproof enclosure with an aperture and a shuttered lens through which the image of an object is focused and recorded on a photosensitive film or plate. In video, a device that receives the primary image on a light-sensitive cathode tube and transforms it into electrical impulses. (Artlex.com) Find out about 35-mm cameras at Wikipedia:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/135_film  mount.”(Martin, 1998)

  • Make your own short film and experiment with visual effects.
  • Use the residuals as inspiration for making another art work.

For some information on using camera/film techniques, go to:

 

Use film in an art-making activity

  • Visit or contact a film production centre and obtain some out-takes or discarded film.

  • Apply diluted bleach to the film using Q-tips or any other means available.  Be careful when using bleach as it can ruin clothing if the bleach is accidentally dripped on it!

  • Draw on the film with permanent markers and display the film using a film projector.

  • NOTE: Placing discarded film (slides) in different kinds of soils and leaving them there for a while creates interesting effects on the film, too. The microbes in the soil eat away at the emulsion on the film, and create a beautiful record of their travels and ther eating process.

  • Think of other ways you could use the film to create a second work.

 

Create your own artwork using transparent materials

  • Build a light box and layer a variety of transparent materials over the surface.

  • Design a piece of paper to look like a stained-glass window.
  • Cut out the sections to be illuminated from a strong sheet of black paper.

  • Place tissue paper or plastic gels behind these sections and attach them to the paper using glue or tape.

  • When finished attach the design to a window so the light can pass through the transparent sections.

 

Use ideas of  collagePainting and/or gluing a variety of materials on a prepared surface to create a work of art.  and  montageA single pictorial composition made by juxtaposing or overlapping many pictures or designs. The art or process of making such a composition. Also, a rapid succession of different images or shots in a movie. (Artlex.com)  and change objects from their original intention to objects of beauty or interest

Jack Anderson, discussing Kerr‘s work, says that Kerr will, “Destruct and decode film and create objects of beauty.” (Anderson, 1998)

 

Create your own film using a flip book

References

Anderson, Jack.  ‘Manipulating Film for Art.’  Regina Leader Post, August 27,1998.

Elder, Bruce.  ‘Kerr, Richard.’  The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from the Internet on April 4, 2007 from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0011592.

Wees, William C.  ‘Stealing from the Dream Factory: Collage, Montage, Hollywood and the Avant-Garde.’  In Industry: Recent Works by Richard Kerr.  Exhibition catalogue.  Concordia, Quebec, 2004, pp 55-60.

Martin, Lee-Ann.  The After the Motion Picture Series.  Exhibition catalogue.  MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1998.

Testa, Bart.  ‘Richard Kerr’s Recuperation: After Motion pictures and les Collages de Hollywood.’  Prefix Photo, November 4, 2001.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning