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David Rokeby, Circle Trafalgar Square, C-print, 20 1/4" x 72"

Between Motion and Stillness



April 13 - July 15, 2017

Opening reception: Thursday, April 13, 6 - 8 pm


Pari Nadimi Gallery is pleased to present Between Motion and Stillness, a solo exhibition by internationally acclaimed Canadian artist David Rokeby. 


Set aside the timeline or film-strip metaphor for a moment, and consider video as a stack of images, a volume. Just as each image has a visual structure, this volume of images, when rotated and viewed as a kind of sculpture, reveals other, temporal structures. Just as things have size and shape within the spatial plane of an image, things have varying thickness and form through the depth of this stack. Except for the artifact of blur, things that are still and things that move are present in the same way in a conventional image. Hidden within this block of images however, the moving and the still present themselves quite differently.


Finding ways to tease out these hidden forms has been a preoccupation for David Rokeby as far back as high school in the 70’s. The personal computer, arriving just as Rokeby was studying at the Ontario College of Art, provided an ideal tool with which to explore this fascination. Writing code, for Rokeby, is only incidentally a technical process. He crafts code to create personal tools he can use to reach into this block of imagery, to explore it and to selectively carve away at it to reveal what is hidden inside.


Through this peculiar, abstract form of sculpting, Rokeby has developed an almost tactile relationship to these blocks of time and space. In his most recent interactive installation, “Hand-held”, presented at this year’s Nuit Blanche, the audience could literally pass their hands through these immaterial video objects, time passing on their hands and they moved them through space.


The simplest manifestation of this exploration is the separation of what is still from what is moving. In “Watch” (1995), he processes live video of nearby street corners to separate motion and stillness, parsing out and separately presenting the ‘nouns’ and the ‘verbs’ in the image. Unexpectedly, this formal conceptual exploration yielded insights into what might be called the temporal architecture of social space. This led to an ongoing series of works that explore the social ecology of public spaces, including the presentation of “Seen” at the Venice Biennale of Architecture which considered Piazza San Marco in this way.


Presenting these explorations as video is convenient because you can rearrange the stack of images into a film-strip again. As effective as that can be, the presence of motion can be distracting and can mask or hide things that one might want to dwell on for a bit. This motivated Rokeby to experiment with ways to present some of this exploration as still images, starting with the basic question “How much of the activity in Piazza San Marco over 6 minutes can one successfully contain in an image.” This question lead to the 4 photo prints in the “Patina” series and eventually to the work “San Marco Quartet” presented in this show.


The exhibition includes explorations of 4 squares. In addition to Piazza San Marco, Rokeby delves into Trafalgar Square, Dundas Square and Square One Mississauga. Each work starts out with from a common starting point and ends up as a very different and distinct representation.


The exhibition includes works in a variety of media including light boxes, lenticular images, chromogenic prints and video. In this show, the video aspires to be still and the still images aspire to or reflect on movement. All the works in this show sit in some way or other on the border between the still and moving image. And all are examples of Rokeby’s relentless and highly individual pursuit of different ways to consider and represent time and place.


David Rokeby was born 1960, Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, lives and works in Canada. His work has been exhibited internationally and throughout North America in institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, Lentos Museum, Linz, Austria, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China, Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, Montréal, Canada, Silicon Remembers Carbon (retrospective), FACT, Liverpool, UK, Zentrum für Künst und Media, Karlesruhe, Germany, Das Wahrnehmen in der Kunst”, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz Austria, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland. Rokeby’s work is in the permanent collections of The National Gallery of Canada, The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, Montréal, Canada, Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, Canada, Fundació Sorigué, Lléida, Spain, Fondation Daniel Langlois, Montréal, Canada, the Science Museum, London, U.K and many others. His early work Very Nervous System (1982-1991) was a pioneering work of interactive art, translating physical gestures into real-time interactive sound environments. It was presented at the Venice Biennale in 1986, and was awarded a Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction for Interactive Art in 1991. His awards include a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2002), a Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica for Interactive Art (2002), and a British Academy of Film and Television Arts “BAFTA” award in Interactive art (2000).

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