Thursday, 18 August 2011

UnMasterclass 34

UnMasterclass re-watched Jean Luc Godard's Bande à part this week, primarily to view one iconic scene. To kill some time, before a gun fuelled robbery (Godard famously built the film upon D W Griffith's maxim that 'all you need to make a film is a girl and a gun) the 3 protagonists drive around Paris. They pull up on the opposite side of The Seine to the Louvre. We learn that currently there is a record of 9 minutes and 45 seconds to view all the paintings inside the museum, set by an America. The camera cuts to a joyful chaos of skidding and sliding as Odile, Arthur and Franz charge past and ignore the sculptures and paintings. They break the record by 15 seconds. In a misguided attempt at homage Bernardo Bertolucci trimmed an additional 2 seconds off the record in his 2003 film The Dreamers. Of course in terms of UnMasterclass we find this to be of great interest. The spectacle of the chase is a precursor in many ways to the spectacle architecture of the last 20 years. In short many people now visit galleries for reasons other than to take in and appreciate art. In Godard's film the protagonists disturb pockets of people sitting and standing in front of the masterpieces on the wall. Tellingly in Bertolucci the pockets of people have thinned down to only a handful of people that are seen throughout the filmed chase. Everyone would have been drawn to the spectacle of the caged Mona Lisa in the 40 years between the 2 films, leaving the rest of the galleries emptier. In a most telling comparison between the 2 in one particular part of the chase we can see what may (or may not) have changed about the way we engage with paintings in our galleries. The first shot of Godard's chase has a panning camera follow the 3 hand holding young Parisians until it comes to rest on Jacques-Louis David's The Oath of the Horatii between the Hands of their Father. This is repeated in Bertolucci's version (minus a bench full of people). However in Godard's version a black-suited visitor walks into frame engrossed in viewing the painting, whilst in the later version a white suited man also enters the scene to the left, but crucially he walks vacantly past. The contemporary version has a more light hearted approach to viewing and appreciated art, as well as a lighter coloured suit. In short we return again to our recurring theme of UnMasterclass, resist the spectacle, the brevity, the speedy chase through the gallery and take time to view and ponder the art. Then take this learning and thought to making art. Or choose not to learn and take the speedy route, the UnMasterclass way that we practice but do not preach. This weeks painting of George Caleb Bingham's Fur traders Descending the Missouri comes in at a super speedy 7 minutes and 35 seconds and is viewable here

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