John Stezaker is an artist fascinated by images and the process of interrupting them. This fascination has led him to work with found images which, over the last four decades, he has turned into collages and image fragments.
This exhibition presents three films by the artist – Horse (2012), Crowd (2013) and Cathedral (2013). The films are made up of a vast number of Stezaker’s personal collection of film stills, postcards and images from racehorse catalogues. They comprise discontinuous still images which are re-photographed and projected at 24 frames per second, without sound.
These ‘still films’ are anything but still. According to perceptual psychology, we are cognitively blind to individual film frames projected at this speed. The cinematic image is visible here only because of the overall continuity of frames shown at quick succession, therefore creating an illusion of movement.
The resulting films show a mind-blowing spectacle of fractured and multiple images, which after a while, settle into a series of dreamlike after-images, memorably imprinted on our vision.
The image source for this film is an annual publication advertising racehorses for stud. Each horse is photographed identically in conformity with fixed image specifications. For the film loop, the images were scanned in the order of their appearance from the first publication in 1984 through to when the Stallion Annual changed format in 2001. This means that the film represents an accelerated genetic history of the racehorse. In contrast to Eadweard Muybridge’s well-known photographic studies of the horse in motion, which create the impression of stillness and singularity, Horse instead offers “a shuddering Parkinsonian proximity to stillness” (John Stezaker, 2015)
This is the first film to mobilise a collection of postcards which, predominantly, illustrate views down the central aisles of churches and cathedrals. Cathedral is an attempt to explore the cinematic effect of a less stable central object of attention than Horse by embracing a larger range of pictorial variation.
Crowd is built from a collection of film stills of crowd scenes. It is a crowd of crowds: a space of multiplicity so overwhelming that it seems that the crowd disappears. At this level, the crowd becomes a semi-visible background against which the star of the film appears. Crowd explores this threshold between appearance and disappearance.
John Stezaker was born in 1949 in England and studied at the Slade School of Art 1967–1973. Solo exhibitions in recent years have included The Approach, London (2015), Fotomuseum Nederlands, Rotterdam (2015), Petzel Gallery, New York (2014) Anna Schwartz Gallery, Sydney, Australia (2014), the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art, Israel (2013), The Whitechapel Gallery, London (2011) then touring to MUDAM, Luxembourg and Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, USA (2012), Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany (2010), A Palazzo Gallery, Brescia, Italy (2008), GAK Bremen, Germany (2008).
Stezaker won the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2012.