Forming part of his most ambitious project to date, Canadian-born, UK-based artist Mark Lewis’ solo exhibition at The Power Plant centres on three new films shot on location in Toronto in 2015.
GUEST CURATOR: BARBARA FISCHER
Offering an unusual perspective on the city’s 1960s modernist aspirations, the new works are as much concerned with the current transformation and restructuring of the urban core as they are part of Lewis’ ongoing inquiry into the nature of the moving image. Constituting a rare subject in the history of film and visual art in Toronto, Lewis’ films reflect upon the nature of cinema through the means of urban architectural perception.
Invention, which is the title of both the exhibition and Lewis’ recent and ongoing project, engages with the ways in which the emergence of cinema revolutionized consciousness, setting into play the possibilities not only of seeing a picture move, but also seeing the moving representation of the random and contingent nature of the quotidian world and imagining oneself as a moving picture. Speculating on the moment of film’s emergence, Lewis asks: what did it feel like to begin this journey of a revolutionary change of consciousness? And after more than 100 years of film history, what are the implications of this as film rapidly disappears and new material forms and new ways of looking at and experiencing moving images emerge? i
Focusing on the urban landscape, Lewis explores the way in which the cinematic experience is embedded in the unique multiplicity of urban flux: the pulsating staccato of pedestrians at morning rush hour, the bustling density of downtown intersections, the languid motion of automobiles and public transport vehicles coursing the streets as seen from afar.
Marked by a profound absence of commodified moving images such as the cinema, television or Mpegs, and returning instead to still images that reference painting and printed books, Lewis’ attention is specifically drawn to modernist architecture—Mies van der Rohe’s Toronto Dominion complex of towers, the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library—as a liminal surface, one that functions both literally and metaphorically as an interface between the world and its uncanny but natural structuring as cinematic. Walls and pavement become surfaces for a spectacle of shadow plays; the repetition of windows of the modernist glass curtain—windows, beams and trusses—are the optical equivalent of the frames of analogue film as well as the interface of still and moving image animations; and the movement through urban space, with its blocks and channels, cuts up perspectives and vistas, evoke the way montage edits temporal and spatial flow. Coupled with uniquely cinematic types of movement—the actions of the zooming lens; the panning, tilting, lifting and lowering of the camera; and the recording, editing and playback of analogue or digital film—Lewis underscores the way in which the camera extends the human gaze, physically, haptically and psychically in the experience of space.
Critical in Lewis’ conception of the emergence of cinema is the presence of reflective surfaces—of the glass and mirrors of modern architecture—as it reflects, distorts and separates the body and its image in random and surprising ways. Creating the conditions for manipulating self-reflection, the spectator’s self-conscious self-composition becomes manifest as a cinematic effect.
Together, the elements that make up Mark Lewis’ films culminate in a body of work that is as astute as it is elegiac in its contemplation of the quotidian, offering an experience of the flux of time that is as elating in its duration as it is haunting for its sense of passing. It offers repose within the realm of the moving image at a time when images proliferate across hand-held devices, within a multitude of digital interfaces, and not least of all, in the liquidity of visual messaging across architectural and advertising screens that capitalize the city’s urban core.
Mark Lewis (born in Hamilton, ON, 1958) currently lives and works in London, UK. Lewis attended Harrow College of Art in London and the Polytechnic of Central London, and began his career as a photographer before moving into film. He has had numerous solo exhibitions in museums around the world, including le Bal, Paris (2015), the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2013), Vancouver Art Gallery (2013), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2009), BFI Southbank, London (2007), and the Musee d’art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg (2005). In 2009, Lewis represented Canada in the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009), curated by Barbara Fischer. The first iteration of Invention was presented in a solo exhibition at The Louvre, Paris (2014), and in the form of a large-scale installation at the 31st São Paulo Biennial (2014). Mark Lewis teaches at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, UK, and is Co-Founder, together with Charles Esche, of the journal Afterall. The artist is represented by Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto.
The films featured in Invention are funded in part by the National Film Board of Canada.
i Mark Lewis, Invention (London: University of Arts London Professional Platform, 2014), n.p.
PRESENTED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE JUSTINA M. BARNICKE GALLERY / UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO ART CENTRE