A few months into the project in August of 2009, I was on my way to Torben Giehler’s studio in Berlin when I took yet another wrong turn on my bicycle. While righting myself somewhere around Invaliden Strasse, I recognized a friend from New York. He was installing a show for American artist Reynold Reynolds at the Invaliden gallery, right where we were standing. We stepped inside, and once my eyes adjusted to the low lighting, I found myself in front of a room-sized filming apparatus being operated by a row of four interns (the German university system requires that art students must intern with an artist in order to receive their degree). Instead of a motion camera, a still one was mounted to a contraption of gears and machine belts to adjust the focusing, shutter speed, aperture, and distance to the subject. This assembly was rigged to a network of wires and hydraulic parts across the ceiling which ran down to the floor to the intern-monitored computers. Part of the mechanics that looked like a rudimentary fuse box housed in Styrofoam was attached to the wall (pictured at right).
“Normally,” said Reynolds standing in front of his makeshift stage, “I only use this in the studio to film, but for this exhibition, I decided to bring the whole process into the gallery.” Reynolds showed me one of his films to demonstrate the nature of his camera, which takes one frame per second as opposed to the standard 24 per second that a motion camera takes. The one-frame-per-second stills are then edited together into a video that possesses the eerie feeling and rickety quality of silent film.
A young, Swedish-born muse is the protagonist of many of Reynolds’ films. She’s often portrayed as either the human subject of medical experiments or conducts them herself while surrounded by chemistry beakers, clocks, metronomes, and dusty bookshelves evoking the stop-animation sets of the Brothers Quay. The time period depicted belongs to that of Eadweard Muybridge—the first to capture locomotion in stop-action photographs, the precursor to film.
I read Reynolds’s press release which quoted Bruce Nauman’s famous realization: “If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art. At this point art became more of an activity and less of a product.” Following this dictum, Reynolds decided, for this one exhibition, to bring his filming process and giant self-made tool—which, according to Nauman’s quote is also art—into the gallery.