a ribbon at a time, golden leaf

The concept for this video came out of two incomplete projects that we have worked on over the past couple of years. The first was a somewhat ambitious idea inspired by Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s Homo Sapiens (2016). As in that film, we were interested in abandoned places, sites that had been more or less reclaimed and re-inhabited by nature. The trace of the human becomes the foundation of a previously impossible ecology, and our film would have attempted to track the labors of the non-human actors in creating this new world. The mechanical frequency of human maintenance provides the backdrop to the slower yet more transformative work performed in its absence. There was, perhaps, something of an animist principle underlying our thinking, this notion that we could capture some collaboration between a place, the objects that populate it, and time. In the image of these places, we see these two chronologies meshed.

Our second suspended project could most easily be described as an attempt at John Gianvito’s Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (2007) by way of James Benning. Long, static takes of monuments and memorials; the camera obsesses over the casted contours of gesture and the fulguration of polished facades. Exploring these features at length, duration gives way to durability. These shrines are made of hard and heavy things; they were built to withstand the enormous patience and decisiveness of the idle passing of time. As such, euhemeristically and with ample encouragement from their patronizing institutions, we imagine structures that represent the past, either in image or sentiment, to be anchors of that past, holding the business of history aright. Suddenly, these things disappear. When we scan the landscape, looking for what was supposed to be there always, and fail to find it, what does that mean? There is no collapse, no lacuna, nothing rushes to fill the void. The view is clearer. These were never the guardians of history.

Without giving too much away, all of these ideas, in one muffled form or another, have been smuggled into the work we present here, a ribbon at a time, golden leaf. The four shots that compose the piece attempt to, in one sense, repudiate not just camera tricks and their temporal convolutions but mechanical time itself. In another sense, they confirm and recreate the effect by passing through the other side — slow motion in real-time can most easily be achieved by filming something one might normally view sped-up. As fans of nature documentaries can attest, sunrises and sunsets are often victim to the time-lapse, coursing across the sky as if hounded before plunging behind a magisterial peak or slouching below savannah. Instead, we hope to make a film of solar timekeeping, a grand return to the time before time became exigent.

Most importantly, this is not a film of events. Such a film would be one in which time flows according to narrative’s caprice, compresses or dilates as need, stops and starts, jumps and stutters across the timeline. Time is plastic in these films, and the camera’s preoccupation is capturing what happens. The camera arrives seconds before the fight breaks out, before the firefighters rush in, before the lovers reconcile. We jump from London to New York in the time it takes to spin a globe and play an airplane takeoff sound effect. A rattling, tear-streaked confession at the restaurant before the server even takes a drink order.

Instead, a ribbon attempts to precisely correlate its image, its narrative, and its temporality. Though the video is structured around two pairs of rising and setting suns, one each from Richmond, Virginia and Durham, North Carolina, it maintains a largely indexical relationship to the sun. Rather than, to pillage Muybridge, a heliopraxography, we present an account of its traces, the movements of its diffusions, dispersions, distortions, and occlusions, as they are traced across duration. Visual information flows across the images, though perhaps not always at rates our everyday modes of perception are sensitive to. From the surface skimming of a dawn-dappled flock of birds to the lazy unwinding of color across the sky to the holographic flickering of clouds in reflection to the barely perceptible jostling of each atom against each other atom, these images are filled with things that happen for no reason other than their occurrence within that small patch of space and time captured on camera.

In presenting things so plainly, we hoped to figure a realism distorted by an excess of realism. Things become strange when we spend time with them. Seemingly uniform surfaces transform into dynamic cartographies under deep enough consideration, and when you give an image the attention it desires, it discloses more and more. In a sense, this could be considered a fitting film for security personnel seated before a CCTV bank — a species painfully attentive to time and the minutest of shifts in image.

None of this is to even touch upon the sound, which is composed entirely of site recordings made during filming. These recordings are then looped and played over themselves. Sounds become multiplied and are roughened beneath repetition before smearing into barely distinct noise. The skaters practice over Celine Dion covers and the sporadic burst of passing cars are reshaped into a buffeting cyclone. The effect is a palimpsestic one and a fitting contrast to the ineluctability of the sun’s slow turning.

Thank you very much for your attention, and we hope you enjoy.

-Matt & Marc


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