The Night of …

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Night of the Moon Has Many Hours (excerpt)

The Night of the Moon Has Many Hours (excerpt) from mauricio arango on Vimeo.

As told to Anthony Rhoades, /One/:

The Night of the Moon Has Many Hours depicts the mysterious and nocturnal ritual of a young man living in the countryside. This ritual consists of pulling bodies out of the black waters of a river and carrying them through the night to a distant shore, where an anxious group of people waits in secrecy for his cargo. After unloading, the man withdraws into his frail boat and departs, getting lost in the void of the night.

The viewer is never sure if she is seeing a dreamscape or an actual procedure conducted by the main character. He seems to perform his activities as something he is used to, with restraint and no hesitation. However, the combination of his unusual catch, plus the night sounds and the shadows and reflections of the dark waters, imbue the film with an air of ambiguity. The uncanny presence of the natural is felt at the very moment: Animals, insects, plants and trees swayed by the wind, and an impenetrable darkness overtakes the viewer’s aural and visual fields.

The actions and places shown on screen suggest that something macabre has affected the people who live there. However, nothing is explained to us. We do not know why the young men pulled out of the water are dead. Neither do we know whom the people waiting for the bodies are, nor why the main character dedicates his nights to this chore.

This indetermination is an important aspect of the film’s aim, which is inspired by the recent history of violence in Colombia, my home country. My intention was not to give a categorical explanation of what has taken place there; I never intended to ascribe a univocal meaning to the narrative. Instead, the actions and the images that the viewer sees are created imprecisely enough so that as to be as communal as possible. For me, this is a way to puzzle and perhaps draw the spectator closer to the narrative.

Nevertheless, I did want to hint that, indeed, terrible things have taken place; that the experience of someone living in one of the conflict zones of a country like Colombia is diametrically different from the day-to-day living you or I experience in the States.

In relation to the question about the relation of my film to photography, traditionally, when comparing photography to film the first thing that is commonly highlighted is the difference in the time base of the two forms. The metaphor used is that photography is like a point—a captured, frozen instant—and film is like a line, a series of points that create the illusion of movement. Thus, the contemplation of a still photo has no fixed duration, and allows the “spectator time to veer away on a train of thought, circle back, traverse and criss-cross the image” (Barthes, on Wollen, Peter, Fire And Ice. The Photography Reader. Ed. by Liz Wells, Routledge, Oxon, England. 2003).

This type of view on photography is something I am not interested in; instead, I see photography and film as having a common usage of the semantics of time exercised to place the spectator within a narrative.

A single still image may not be seen as a complete storyline, but a series of photographs can be used as singular elements creating a narrative. As it is the case with narrative film, meaning is affected by the sequencing (the editing) of the still images.

So for me this is a common base for the usage of film or still photographs. With both I can create a fiction. Of course, there are important differences in the affective nature of each form, in their display, and in the usage of other devices, such as sound. But at the deep core, what interests me is the possibility of these forms to engage, fix, and throw the spectator into a narrative.


Picture 3

Mauricio Arango

Mauricio Arango is a Colombian-born artist and educator. His projects have been presented nationally and internationally at diverse venues like Artists Space (New York, USA), Stills Gallery (Edinburgh, Scotland), the Sidney Opera House (Sidney, Australia), the International Society for Electronic Art at the San Jose Museum of Art (San Jose, USA), The Sao Paolo Museum of Contemporary Art (Sao Paulo, Brazil), and The Colombian Biennial of Electronic Art (Bogota, Colombia). He has received grants and commissions from the Sao Paulo Museum of Contemporary Art (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Lab For Culture (Amsterdam, Holland), Forecast Public Artworks (Saint Paul, USA), The Minnesota State Arts Board (USA), the Kulturfonds der Stadt Salzburg (Salzburg, Austria), and from Low-Fi, The Net Art Locator (London, UK). Recently he finished his participation in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, USA) and received the 2008 Bush Artist Fellowship (Minneapolis, USA).

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