Film can be a powerful medium for documenting public artworks—and sometimes films devoted to public art rise to the level of art themselves.
NowYouSeeMe!, in its second year, is an international contest to find and honor the best short films about public art. On January 21, the six 2017 winners—and a seventh film—were screened at what is probably the ultimate venue for conferring artistic credibility, the Louvre.
The contest is a project of Artists for Public Art 1777, founded by Jaume Plensa, Daniel Buren, and Dani Karavan to raise awareness of, and funds for, the physical preservation of deteriorating artworks. Noa Karavan-Cohen, president of the organization, presided over the screening and ceremony.
The top winner:
Black Circle Square by Matteo Frittelli (Italy): Black Circle Square, a sculptural structure inspired by a Kazimir Malevich painting and designed by Massimo Bartolini, serves as a fire-protection pond for a farm near the city of Castrop-Rauxel in Germany. In the film, the minimalist pool becomes the scene of enigmatic activity.
The rest of the winners:
Blue Passages by Shino Yanai (UK): A film about the artist’s performance, which recreated the fatal journey of German philosopher-critic Walter Benjamin, a fugitive from the Nazis, from France into Spain in 1940, a journey that ended in Benjamin’s suicide. Yanai carries a torch through Dani Karavan’s Passages, a memorial to Benjamin in Portbou, Spain.
Shapes by Matthew Lapiska (USA): New York-based artist Allan McCollum installs a multitude of plywood shapes in the new Elmhurst Public Library in Queens, New York, demonstrating his systems-theory-driven plan to give everyone on earth his or her own personal symbol.
South East Park Proposition by Ash Keating (Australia): The artist paints the facades of newly built warehouses on Melbourne’s urban fringe with trompe-l’oeil images.
Tsa Tsa Ke K’e by Osheen Harruthoonyan (Canada): The Montreal-based photographer/director filmed Canadian Native artist Alex Janvier at work on a mammoth mosaic floor for the new Rogers Place Arena in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Living by Dan Wolman (Israel): This 1965 film by the lauded Israeli independent director uses public sculpture in New York, including Walter Schott’s Three Dancing Maidens (1910) in Central Park, to help tell the story of a man’s life.
Judges for the contest were directors Simone Estrin and Talya Lavie, artists Kimsooja and Jochen Gerz, and Forecast’s founder and now Director of Community Services, Jack Becker.
Attendees at the screening, which was part of the Louvre’s tenth annual Journées internationales du film sur l’art, also viewed A Shift in the Landscape, by Estrin. The film focuses on Richard Serra’s early Land Art work, Shift, near Toronto, which is being encroached upon by suburban development.