[Unsubmitted exhibition proposal.]
Richard Kerr, 1994, video, 60 min.
Standish Lawder, 1969, film, 12 min.
Richard Kerr's McLuhan appropriates the video documentation of a seminar Dr. McLuhan gave to a small class at a local community college in 1974. Kerr runs the video (along with its audio) intact at the centre of the screen. Colourful video noise plays over the surface of the image and its black border. The entire text of the proceedings crawls across the bottom of the screen at different speeds. Although always readable, it is not contiguous with the audio Ñ at times the crawling text precedes the audio, at other times it echoes it. Occasionally selections of the lecture crawl across the top of the screen.
Standish Lawder's Necrology employs a two-part structure. In the first part a steady stream of people slowly ascend into a calm darkness. They enter the frame from the bottom and slowly move backwards and up, passing from light to darkness. (They happen to be on an escalator in a busy airport.) The music is an unobtrusive cello accompanied by strings. The section, a single shot, lasts about eight minutes. The second part, a fake credit sequence, features marching music. It lists each of the "actors" by name and role: "Amy Fishburne....Secretary with perm." This Book of the Dead is turned into a bad joke that persists until it becomes something else...
Both works use scrolling or crawling texts to re-author filmic documents. In the case of McLuhan, the text merely echoes, or at most edits, the words of McLuhan as we hear them on the video. Yet a strange distance is built between the two voices that are substantively identical yet quite separate. Necrology is a complex joke. In the first section, persons oblivious to their participation become the characters in a fictional scenario and ascend toward the after-life. In the second section, the characters are further fictionalized: given names and descriptions.
These re-authorings assert the difference between the living and the dead. The documentary, the authority of the document, becomes an expression of a death-wish. Whatever the dead say must be perpetually interpreted, re-authored.