By José Sarmiento-Hinojosa
Scattered in seemingly random order, on the screen, we see the light that traverses the kinetic fields of Bill Brand’s latest film August Garden. Made for a group exhibition at Galerie Arnaud Lefebvre (Paris), the film accompanies a series of flower ink paintings, carefully made by the artist. Before, in the first seconds, we’re able to see an animation of August Garden 07 (ink and watercolor on xuan paper, 9″ x13″, 2019), which titillates lively for brief moments.
August Garden is, dare I say, a work of the late period of his “kinetic fields” body of work, a work that was radically structuralist in his early days, with films like Zip-Tone-Cat-Tune (1972) or Coalfields (1984) which abstracted the dimensionality and temporarily of the image in order to create parallel fields of vision, which was sometimes deeply unsettling but always beautifully composed. In a recent interview with Bill, he talks about the method: “Of course, I had many ideas that motivated this search. It wasn’t just a visual technique. For instance, with Zip-Tone-Cat-Tune I was trying to create composition in time analogous to music. With later films I was trying to create other kinds of layered counterpoint. But throughout, I was making images about thresholds, boundaries of perception and apprehension. “
August Garden is then, a much gentle creature, which finds Bill Brand in a less frantic space and provides a realm of meditation through the constant fragmentation of the digital recording of a garden, moving behind the gaps of light provided in shapes of different leaves. For moments, the speed on which these gaps are presented, provides a spatial trance: while the eyes are meddling with the complex formation of what we see, the brain responds in waves, expanding the image in different dimensions, separating different layers upon layers. However, the intention is much more playful and calm that, for example, the rough, anxiety-ridden fragments of Coalfields. And understandably so, since this is a film that reaffirms the observational stance of an artist who is contemplating nature. In that sense, we give up the effort of decoding the image behind, and surrender to the magic pulse of this garden-composed-through-mattes which shares a common sense of tactility with his watercolor and ink works, a delicate yet vibrating pulse.
The gestures of painting, of creating a narrative in an image that is yet to be created, are repeated here in August Garden. The way Bill Brand manipulates the editing process and allows us only a fraction of the image, corresponds to an inner desire of the filmmaker to “compose” and “paint” over what’s already recorded. It’s a rewarding impulse, one that elevates the mere act of registering a garden into an exercise of complex observation. And again, August Garden 07 comes back through animation, leaving us to wonder what lies behind the wonderful lines on ink in the rest of the artist’s work for this exhibition. The kinetic fields of Bill Brand is a technique that reinvents itself seemingly every decade, and as that, is one of the true legacies of this extraordinary filmmaker.
Dir: Bill Brand
4K video, 4 1/2 minutes