Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Midterm Project

Body Language Sequences--Dr. Hugo Heyrman

"I walk through the streets of Antwerp City, to investigate how people are using 'silent language' and 'personal space'. I am interested in the temporality of speed, acceleration, slowness and pause. How 'sub-movements' are expressed. How motion precedes emotion." --Hugo Heyrman

“Body Language Sequences” is a series of short, looped movies compiled by Belgian artist Hugo Heyrman. To create this piece he walked the streets of Antwerp with a video camera in his hand and candidly recorded ordinary people doing ordinary things. None of the actions he recorded would make someone on the street stop and stare.

There are no car accidents or fistfights, the things that normally attract attention in a large city. In other words, the scenes that he chose would be completely mundane and boring to an outside observer. But presented Heyrman’s way, these completely mundane scenes take on an entirely new level of meaning. He takes a few seconds of action and slows them down to a crawl. He then loops the images over and over again, causing the viewer to reflect and try to add meaning to what he or she sees.

The authority shift is what most attracted me to this piece. Instead of shifting authority from artist to audience as with most pieces we have studied, it is the subjects in Heyrman’s work that hold all the authority. The artist does not control the actions of the subjects in this piece. Rather, he simply records and preserves actions that occur independently of him. He did not stage the actions that took place; he simply captured people behaving completely candidly, unaware that they were being recorded.

Another interesting aspect of this piece is the bending of space/time. The actions that Heyrman recorded would last only a split second in real-time; he loops each scene so that one instant becomes infinite. In real life, it would be impossible to analyze and think about every piece of nonverbal communication we encounter day to day. Presented in this format, however, the viewer can sit and reflect for ten minutes on an action that took place in the blink of an eye.

In the introduction to the piece, Heyrman writes, “The revealed moments are giving an insight in the instinctive feelings, attitudes, expressions, gestures and emotions of human communication. In a series of experimental ultra-short films, each looped sequence draws attention to its own syntax —a rhythmic pattern of body language in motion.”
I found that statement to be very true. There is a sort of beautiful pattern and rhythm that emerges if you allow the scenes to loop for a while. Something as simple as a girl tapping her fingers on her leg or someone merely waiting becomes art. What emerged for me was the understanding that there is an incredible amount of hidden or disguised meaning in everyday life; all one has to do is look for it.

You may read the artist's statement here.


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