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The Desire to Stay Versus the Inevitability to Change

Metro Magazine    March 2008
By Gregory J. Scott

Helen Stringfellow has a pretty strong opinion of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. “Everyone remembers being scared by it as a kid,” she says. “But you watch it now, and you say, ‘This is crap.’ ”

Stringfellow, who originally hails from England, and her husband, Lars Jerlach, a native of Copenhagen, make up tectonic industries (TI), an art partnership that has operated out of a studio in St. Paul’s Lowertown since 2003. Known for hopscotching nimbly from one medium to another—architectural sculpture, maps, photography, life-size bear suits—TI’s creations deal with the isolated individual in an urban environment and the deluge of artifice this individual confronts on a daily basis.

Which brings us back to Stringfellow’s less-than-positive estimation of The Birds, a viewpoint that drives TI’s video installation at Franklin Art Works this month. Called “The Desire to Stay versus the Inevitability to Change,” the project is a strange, postmodern dampening of The Birds, for which TI recruited 16 individuals to sit silent and alone in their living rooms and watch Hitchcock’s legendary horror-thriller with the sound turned down.

Each viewer was assigned a character in the movie, and when that character’s lines appeared on screen via subtitles, the viewer voiced the dialogue in an intentionally passive, deadpan manner. Cameras mounted on the participants’ televisions filmed them throughout the excruciating two hours. At Franklin Art Works, TI will display the footage of each “actor” on 16 monitors mounted on the gallerys walls.

Hung like paintings at even intervals, each monitor becomes a documentary of unselfconscious, candid boredom. A white-haired man sits stiffly on a leather sofa. A young woman picks at her nails and fidgets while she waits to deliver her lines. Another actor knits. Drained of context The Birds’s script comes off as predictably stilted and lean, a series of lukewarm lines delivered at random.

Still, there’s more to the installation than simply neutering an American classic. Fragmentation really seems to be at the heart of the work. By disjointing The Birds into 16 disparate parts, like sunlight through a prism, the installation comments on the myth of the shared experience of moviegoing by showing 16 people experiencing the same film in unique ways. +

“The Desire to Stay versus
the Inevitability to Change”

Through March 29
Franklin Art Works
1021 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
612.872.7494
franklinartworks.org

Photos courtesy of tectonic industries.

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