This being my first time visiting the Ren, located in the UIC campus, I was very impressed by the space itself. It was very intimate, yet the high ceilings and all of the windows gave it an almost sanctuary-like feel. I’d be very interested to see a photography exhibit in this space.
The Gerard Byrne exhibit was set up extremely well, in my opinion. The idea to use the walls as one of the many ‘nods’ to minimalism seemed very creative, and only added to the experience of viewing the short films. Not having next to any prior knowledge about minimalism, the show really didn’t make sense to me at first. I understood what minimalism was, to a certain extent, and I knew this show would be referencing it, but it just didn’t seem to click for me until Hamza gave us a background view of minimalism.
The films themselves were quite beautiful. My personal favorite was the radio interview. The way it was shot was very interesting, using long panning shots, and a shallow depth of field going in and out of focus. I also enjoyed listening to the actual interview being played over the film. Even though I wasn’t quite sure what they were talking about, from a strictly visual and auditory sense, it was quite moving.
In regards to the question “…if minimalism is all about the object in and of itself (art for art’s sake) why do you think the work was so full of references to histories and stories around art?” You’ll notice I used the term ‘nod’ earlier on, after listening to what Hamza told us, and trying to digest most of what I got out of it, I felt as though this work was more about identifying key points in both minimalism’s history and school of thought, and referencing them either directly (the New Jersey Turnpike), or indirectly (using film as his chosen medium for minimalism).
I liked the idea that Hamza posed in the interview, using ‘tone-clusters’ on a piano as a way to describe the work, and what it’s doing in regards to minimalism. If one understands the anecdotes of minimalism, the history and the theory, there is still this element that remains regarding how it’s documented. Minimalism does not lend itself to being photographed, let alone filmed. To photograph is to capture a single instant in time, and if minimalism is resistant to a single instant in time, how on earth would it work for film? I think that’s exactly what Byrne was trying to challenge by doing this work. He said himself he wanted it to be ‘panoramic’, ‘encyclopedic’, and ‘paradoxical’. After listening to and understanding the meaning behind minimalism, I believe he accomplished it quite well.