Smithsonian American Art Museum
Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image is a series of rotating exhibitions drawn from SAAM’s permanent collection. The works of art featured in this installation identify a complex relationship between still photography and moving images. These artistic engagements with captured and recorded pictures examine notions of storytelling and processes of interpretation, underscoring just how relative meaning can be, and urging viewers to question where the power of imagery might reside. Taken together, the arrangement traces a vibrant call and response between artists and pictures, narratives, and interpretation.
This presentation of Watch This! is the fifth in the series. The installation presents, for the first time at the museum, Alex Prager’s digital cinema installation Face in the Crowd (2013), recently acquired by SAAM. Projected across three walls in a screening room, Face in the Crowd traces a spectrum of concerns—a fear of crowds and the desire to stand out amongst them, voyeurism and exhibitionism, the spectator’s gaze, and the inability to live up to expectations. But it more acutely identifies the anxiety of being swept up by the masses while trying to create and maintain a sense of self; conditions long present in the physical world, but amplified in the virtual spaces we inhabit today.
Also on view are Eleanor Antin’s video and photographs Caught in the Act (1973), John Baldessari’s Ed Henderson Reconstructs Movie Scenarios (1973), Peter Campus’s Head of a Misanthropic Man (1976–1978), and Prager’s Crowd #5 (Washington Square West) (2013). Michael Mansfield, curator of film and media arts, selected the works.
A dedicated permanent collection gallery for time-based art is an important aspect of the media arts initiative at the museum, which includes acquisitions, exhibitions, educational programs, and archival research resources related to film, video, and the media arts.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.