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Indepth Arts News:

"Sharon Lockhart: Teatro Amazonas"
2000-06-10 until 2000-08-27
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg, , DE

In the five years since it first opened, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg has featured the medium of photography in a succession of one-person exhibitions. The most recent of these was of Ed van der Elsken, an artist equally interested in still photography and in film.

'Teatro Amazonas' at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg is an exhibition of films and photographs by the American artist Sharon Lockhart (born 1964), with particular emphasis on a series of new pieces. Lockhart's latest body of work was created on visits to two separate locations in the Amazonas region of Brazil, both of which she visited in the company of anthropologists.

In her pictures of a fishing village on the island of Apeú-Salvador and of rubber-tapping settlements along the Rio Aripuanã, she explores the complex relationship between photography and film, and their changing status as documentary media. A selection of earlier work is included for purposes of comparison.

Lockhart discovered the 'Teatro Amazonas' in Manaus through Werner Herzog's film 'Fitzcarraldo' (1982) and became fascinated by the building itself and by the history of its foundation. She at once conceived the idea of exploring the building and the city in a film of her own.

With the help of a demographer, Lockhart invited 308 people, a representative statistical sample of the population of Manaus, to come to the opera house. She installed a fixed camera and filmed the audience as it sat in the ornate auditorium for half an hour, while a choir, out of sight in the pit, sang Minimalist compositions. The tension in the audience relaxed very gradually. As the choir sang ever more softly, the hearers began to revert to their own concerns; so that eventually no music was to be heard, only the sounds made by the audience.The music, composed by Lockhart's collaborator, Becky Allen, consists of a single decrescendo on one note. It starts deafeningly loud, with twelve groups of five singers each, all intoning a cyclic sequence of local vowel sounds, and dwindles until all that is left is one barely audible group.

In addition to this film project, Lockhart took two series of photographs: one recording a seventeen-day journey along the Aripuana river, on which she was accompanied by an anthropologist, and the other taken on the island of Apeú-Salvador.

At every stopping-place along the river, the anthropologist conducted interviews with the families who lived there. Lockhart then photographed the location of each interview, together with a number of pictures from the family albums of the people concerned. The Apeú-Salvador photographs were taken in the course of a single visit to the island and concentrate more directly on individual people and groups, so that they fall far more clearly within the category of portraiture. Lockhart's photographs of families reflect a variety of configurations. In some cases she left them to pose themselves; in others she prescribed the arrangement.

The two photographic series 'Enrique Nava Enedina and Chronicle of Masonry Work' (both 1999) are records of re pair work done on the stone floors of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. They thus pursue two themes: that of work, and that of the museum as a scientific institution and public exhibition site

'On Kawara: Whole and Parts' (1998) consists of four large photographic prints recording the changeover between shifts of gallery attendants at an exhibition of On Kawara in a museum in Tokyo. Once more, Lockhart takes the museum as her theme; and with this she combines the theme of time. Her choice of exhibition is a resonant one. The Japanese artist On Kawara is one of the leading representatives of Conceptual Art. His legendary 'Date Paintings', made from 1965 to the present, are all about time as an abstract entity.

The film 'Goshogaoka' and the series of photographs 'Goshogaoka Girls Basket Ball Team' show a group of Japanese girl basketball players training in a gym. Working with the choreographer St even Galloway, Lockhart has encapsulated her impressions in a series of six ten-minute segments. The result is a hybrid, combining the real-time structure of documentary film with elements of choreography and performance. Lockhart's artistic intention is a complex one; she structures form and duration in such a way as to capture the subtle cultural markers, as well as individual differences, that emerge among the participants. The fixed camera, directed straight toward the rectangle of the stage, the symmetry of the minimalist choreography, and the equal length of the film segments create a sense of order, an ideal context, that contrasts sharply with the irregularity of the human detail in the film.

Planned in association with the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and the Kunsthalle Zürich, this exhibition offers the most comprehensive survey to date of Sharon Lockhart's work.

The 1997 film 'Goshogaoka' (63 minutes) and the new film 'Teatro Amazonas' (38 minutes) will be shown in Auditorium #1 at theAlvar-Aalto Kulturzentrum at the following times:

'Teatro Amazonas' (38 minutes), daily at 14:00
'Goshogaoka' (63 minutes), daily at 16:00

The exhibition catalogue extends to 125 pages and contains many illustrations, together with a preface by Gijs van Tuyl, Bernhard Bürgi, and Chris Dercon; articles by Timothy Martin and Ivone Margulies; a list of exhibitions; bibliographical information; and a list of work in the exhibition.

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