Looking Back, two-channel video installation, 28 minutes, 2016, exhibition overview at RijksakademieOPEN
Looking Back is a two-channel video installation that takes observation as its subject. One screen, a large 4:3 projection, shows portraits of people in a pubic space, who are filmed without being aware of the camera. It is clear that they are looking at something, but we don’t see what they are looking at. By removing the object of the gaze, the video tries to capture the act of looking itself. The selection of the people we see is wide, we see faces of people from all ages, different backgrounds and from many walks of life. All these faces are constituted by the same elements: two eyes, a nose, a mouth. But although every face shares this basic framework, there are few things as different as two faces.
The second screen, a television mounted on the wall, shows the origin of the soundtrack that dominates the installation: the hands of a percussionist playing timpani. The music is recorded in one take, and adds a layer of performativity to the installation that is reminiscent of the way silent movies used to be accompanied by a musician. The music gives a direction to the interpretation of the film, but is also clearly a separate element, and in the end the relationship between the soundtrack and the film remains ambiguous. At times, the blink of an eye coincides with a hit on a drum. Or the slow change of direction of a pair of eyes follows a drum roll evoking a feeling of anticipation. But at other moments, the music seems to follow its own course and logic independently from the film.
Looking Back has its roots in the performance How can we know the dancer from the dance? which took place for six months in the train station of Utrecht in 2016. This performance was a daily choreography in the train station, based on the behaviour, postures and gestures that people exhibit in such places. So for this performative work, the artists observed people, created a work based on these observations, the people observed the work, and at the same time observed themselves. It is this specific gaze, this moment of stillness and concentration in the constant flux of a public transport hub that triggered the creation of Looking Back.
Camera: Ton Peters
Music: Paul Koek
Sound recording and mix: Tom Nestelaar
Color Grading: Michiel Rummens, Amator
Photos: Gert Jan van Rooij