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The film screen
Whitney Museum installation
The Judas Window (1982) Installation view. The Whitney Museum of American Art

The most widely held critical definition of film has been grounded in the idea that this photographic medium records reality on celluloid. This definition derives from the way still photography was first understood after its invention in the nineteenth century: it appeared to achieve the long-sought goal of reproducing the real world. As a result, photography –and, later, film– seemed to release the traditional arts of painting and sculpture from the burden of mimesis.
Leandro Katz, in his film installation The Judas Window, asks if the photographic process, whether still or motion picture, is truly mimetic. By placing film in unexpected relationships with other media and materials, he mixes different, often contradictory, modes of discourse. Thus his film –presenting, for example, a shot of the moon undercut with enigmatic phrases such as “A Cinematographic Rain” and “The Urge to Save” –is viewed within an environment of sculptural objects, including a large parasol covered with colored Xeroxed pages from four classic adventure stories, among them Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and a multi-sided black canvas construction, windowless but illuminated from within, modeled on the famous Black Maria studio, in which Thomas Edison produced his first films, in the late nineteenth century. Other elements in the installation include a wall projection of a detail from an intricate Mayan carving of a foot which illuminates an actual footprint in a sandbox on the floor; a display case holding a collection of twenty-six shells belonging to a mysterious species of tree snails found in the Florida Everglades, each signifying one letter of the alphabet and together composing a linguistic code; and several cages with live crickets. These diverse elements require different –perhaps mutually exclusive– modes of comprehension, and demonstrate how problematic mimesis can be. The installation thus becomes a complex text about epistemology, film, and the history of cultural forms –an archeological site at which to unearth the hidden premises of understanding and perception.
Two precedents, one a work of literature, the other the tradition of film installation as an art form, inform Leandro Katz's project. The literary text is Impressions d'Afrique (1910),
by the French author and playwright Raymond Roussel. Roussel's influential text is an extraordinary catalogue of descriptions of objects and devices, people and events, held together by a loose plot. Its structure is based on an elaborate system of word games and associations that establishes a compelling narrative. So too in Katz's installation the viewer joins and links the various elements into a network of associations that implies a possible narrative.
As for Katz's sources within the film medium, during the 1960s and 1970s artists began to remove film from the traditional theater setting and place it in a gallery or another environment. They have produced films designed to be projected into steam or onto different surfaces and within specially constructed environments, to be viewed with live dancing or other performances, or in conjunction with sculptural structures. All of these varied forms and processes, as in The Judas Window, cause us to reevaluate the nature of film: it does not present an unchanging segment of reality, viewed and interpreted exclusively within the confines of the screen; rather, film is a temporal, flexible, moving-image medium that can be read in different ways, depending on its physical placement and aesthetic context.

–lohn G. Hanhardt©1982, Curator. Whitney Museum of American Art - Film and Video

Robinson Crusoe's Umbrella and Footprint
Crusoe's Parasol and Friday's Footprint.
Friday's Footprint
Friday's Footprint installation

The Judas Window (Rousseliana)
My work addresses the underlying structures that are present in every cultural gesture and that form the way we think and make connections between different notions. The Judas Window, an installation of individual works –contiguous and interchangeable– treats the gallery space in the terms of an active movement of search inside a narrative chamber. In it, space is sudden, as in dreams, and all its functioning parts are engaged simultaneously. And space is also sequential, proposing a theatricality typical of cinema. Upon entering the gallery, as entering the screen (The Judas Window), the spectator/viewer is asked to inquire and to elucidate a sequence of chained revelations, the anthological (dismembered) parts of a floating plot. One could say that in the end, the work leaves a trail of connecting dots, and that this trail is what one would follow in attempting to find the way inside a room which is darkened and yet completely familiar. Then, the elements of the installation –nature and history, the alphabet, the text, the body– all point to the instant when language is discovered, when the senses come in contact with language, that precise moment when the system clicks and everything brightens up. Therefore my work exists inside a very transitory position between the senses and the intellect, between nature and culture, attempting to make sense within the ruins of both.

Leandro Katz, Notes, 1982

Achatinella Sentence Man On Horseback
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