An unusual new video, Street, just acquired by the Met, is on view in the main gallery of the Museum’s Drawings, Prints and Photographs Galleries. The one-hour, high-definition video, shot over the course of a week in September 2011 on the streets of Manhattan, is a kind of love song to New York, by British-born artist, James Nares, who has lived in the city since 1974. His video captures the hodge-podge of humanity, in his words, “the extraordinary in the ordinary,” that is the hallmark of New York street life, and that, in one medium or another, has inspired artists for hundreds of years.
What makes this video unique is Nares’ use of technology. He shot 16 hours of footage in six-second takes using a stationery, high speed camera normally used to record the motion of fast-moving objects, such as hummingbirds, at between 500 and 100 frames per second. The camera was mounted on an SUV driving between 30 and 40 mph. Nares subsequently edited and slowed down the material to 30 frames a second, producing 61 minutes of steady, continuous motion. He also added a musical score, performed on a 12-string guitar by a friend, Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore. The result on a large screen is mesmerizing.
My intention,” writes Nares, “was to give the dreamlike impression of floating through a city of people frozen in time, caught Pompeii-like, at a particular moment of thought, expression, or activity…a film to be viewed 100 years from now.
And indeed, New Yorkers, young and old, in all their colorful states of dress and undress, appear to be performing in a slow-motion ballet of un-choreographed but highly arresting movement. It’s an amazing tour de force.
Nares, on hand for the Exhibition opening, was inspired by silent film footage which he first encountered at the Met, and which visitors can see on their way into the show.
Enhancing the exhibition are 77 other works of art, picked by Nares from the Met’s vast collections, which in his view over the centuries also captured street life.
James Nares’ Video, Street
Metropolitan Museum of Art
March 5th to May 27th, 2013