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Hubbard/Birchler in “Bomb”

8 Jul 2014

Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler Installation View, Giant 2014 High Definition Video with Sound Duration: 30 min. Synchronized 3-Channel Projection Courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin Commissioned by Ballroom Marfa Photo Credit: Frederik Nilsen
Giant, 2014. Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
High Definition video with sound 30min., loop. Courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin. Commissioned by Ballroom Marfa

Irina Arnaut for Bomb recently interviewed artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, whose solo exhibition Sound, Speed, Marker is currently on view at Ballroom. In it they discuss the making of their work Eight, Eighteen, as well as the three films included in the exhibition (Grand Paris Texas, Movie Mountain (Méliès), and Giant).

An excerpt:

Irina Arnaut: At the end of Giant, the secretary who’s been writing up the contract, gazes thoughtfully out the window and then looks directly at the camera/viewer. I wondered about that for a long time. Usually with a movie you think of the lead actors and directors first, then perhaps cinematographers, producers, and so forth—never really the secretary who drew up the production contract. Throughout your Giant, this secretary is the only person we ever associate with the 1956 production of Giant. So in a way she comes to represent the making of the 1956 Giant. When she looks directly at the camera, I couldn’t tell what she was thinking or what she meant except to claim her presence or existence—not confrontational, but certainly assertive. Were you interested in deconstructing or rearranging power dynamics often associated with the movies?

Teresa Hubbard: This is a perceptive insight about the secretary’s stance. She is the presence and placeholder for what is absent, yet she wears and alters this representation through the unfolding of the narrative.

Alexander Birchler: There are several moments throughout Giant—indeed in all the works we’ve been talking about in Sound Speed Marker, as well as Eight, Eighteen—where we consciously break the fourth wall, and, in different ways, employ strategies of Brecht’s distancing effect, or Verfremdungseffekt. We are interested in establishing a terrain that offers immersion for the viewer, in order to twist and entangle that kind of viewing position with other meta-positions.

Glasstire on “Sound, Speed, Marker”

18 Apr 2014

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Giant, 2014. Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
High Definition video with sound 30min., loop. Courtesy of Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York and Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin. Commissioned by Ballroom Marfa

Glasstire recently reviewed Ballroom’s current exhibition, Hubbard/Birchler’s Sound, Speed, Marker. An excerpt:

The evolution from documentation to dispersion is fulfilled in the last video, Giant (2014), which was commissioned by Ballroom Marfa. It is shown in the largest space, on three screens that fill the long wall in the gallery. When we see a continuous image across this expanse, the extreme horizontal aspect ratio calls to mind the epic grandeur of the eponymous 1956 film itself. Hubbard and Birchler’s formidable technical prowess allows them to capture stunning shots of the landscape, sunsets, thunderstorms, even ants swarming a dead grasshopper. The site of these natural wonders is an abandoned film set constructed by Warner Brothers for the original Giant. Now it is merely a skeletal ruin perched in the landscape, an armature about which the degradations of nature continue unabated.

Its role as an armature is twofold. It is a frame through which we see the landscape, in the present, and it is a relic, through which Hubbard and Birchler imagine the drafting of the contract between Warner Brothers and the land owner on which the structure was to be built. Giant cuts back and forth between these two scenarios. They introduce a new element that was absent from the previous two videos, historical reconstruction. A secretary in a sunny office in February 1955 sits at her typewriter, consulting the shorthand on her notepad, typing up the contract. We get extreme closeups of the typewriter mechanisms, the keys striking the paper, the carriage return; the secretary, all lipstick and eyeliner, smokes, is visited by a male supervisor, and gazes wistfully out the window for some reason.

Giant dispenses with spoken language altogether, and the convention of talking-head interviews. There are no “real” people telling their stories. The site of the historical movie is not defined by absence, as in the previous two videos. Instead, the history is concrete and well documented, which seems to grant license to Hubbard and Birchler to push further away from narrative. In this, they achieve fantastic visual pleasure with the landscape scenes in the present.

Continue reading over at Glasstire.

In Conversation with Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler

4 Apr 2014

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Giant.
Image by Fredrik Nilsen.

During the second month of Hubbard/Birchler’s exhibition, Sound Speed Marker, Ballroom Marfa’s intern, Francesca Altamura, spoke with the artist duo about the works featured in the exhibition, comprising of three films, nine photographs and an installation located in the courtyard.

Teresa Hubbard, born in Dublin, Ireland 1965 and and Alexander Birchler, born in Baden, Switzerland 1962 have been working collaboratively in video, photography and sculpture since 1990. The exhibition Sound Speed Marker will be on view at Ballroom Marfa until July 31, 2014, traveling next to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland in December 2014 and the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, Texas in May 2015.

Francesca Altamura: How would you describe the three featured video works, Grand Paris Texas (2009), Movie Mountain (Méliès) (2011) and Giant (2014) to viewers who may not have been introduced to your work before?

Alexander Birchler: There are three video installations, a trilogy, presented at Ballroom, including the premiere of Giant which was commissioned by Ballroom Marfa. All three works explore, in different ways, the physical and social traces that movies and movie making leaves behind.

FA: How has living in Austin, influenced the direction of your current, and future, works?

Teresa Hubbard: We’ve lived and worked in many places and we’ve moved around a lot over the time we’ve known each other — different cities and towns in Canada, Switzerland, Germany and the United States. During the past decade that we’ve been primarily based in Austin, we’ve gotten close to a number of people who are also based in Austin, and they work with us during the research phase, on location and in post production. These are long-term relationships which we really appreciate and have become such an important part of our community.

FA: What was your initial intrigue with the films Paris, Texas and Giant (1956)? Do these films evoke a sense of nostalgic reminiscence for you both?