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Remembering Not So Indifferent

As I enter the large gallery space at CentralTrak, University of Texas at Dallas Artists Residency, an odd sense of remembering and forgetting washes over me. The faint sound of a narrator mixed with cinematic sound can be heard between the lulls of echoing voices of participating viewers. The white door, positioned directly beyond the entrance, welcomes viewers to walk through into the world of Thomas Riccio and Frank Dufour’s collaborative installation, Not So Indifferent, currently on view through November 3rd.

Dufour discusses his inspiration for this work, “My obsession with memory and with one film La jetée by Chis Marker who died this summer — when I was in film school talking about memories and saw this film, I decided I would never make any film because this one was so perfect, the perfection in film. I said there is no way anyone could do anything better. I have been carrying various projects involving this film and dealing with this film and writing about it. I took the opportunity to make this kind of homage to Chris Marker.“ [1]

This is Riccio and Dufour’s second collaborative installation. Riccio’s experience in creating cultural narratives combines with Dufour’s expertise in sound and technology and systematically works to tickle our collective memory in film and television. Inspired by Russian film-maker Sergei Eisenstein’s book, Non-Indifferent Nature, the installation uses three physical points of reference, a door, a window, a table and chairs curating memory through sound, object, and image.

On the relationship between performance and community, Riccio remarked, “Performance is not just about performing human interactions and concerns, it is about gathering and performing the community—the spirits, the ancestors, the animals, the elements. Performance is a circle and it is about opening up depth of being and making things whole. It is a narrative within a larger narrative.” [2]

The nondescript, bright white door sits atop a simple threshold at the front of the space. Beyond the threshold, a modified film plays on the wall to your left. Various clips trigger as you walk-thru, featuring doorways and other realities. The faint narration is drowned out by the participating viewers’ voices reverberating off the blue concrete floor. Shamanic belief in the mythological ‘Doorway’ offers an alternate ideology of transporting between worlds. Riccio’s expertise in shamanic practices made this a viable theory. Stepping over the threshold into another reality, my image briefly projected in the film clip, hangs there like a ghost in the scene. I missed seeing my image, distracted by the merging of echoing voices and overhead sounds. I began to question if my image ever appeared on the projected wall. If not for a friend videotaping my walk-thru, I would have assumed it did not. My own esoteric melodrama would surely be recounted to all my friends in exaggerated, vivid detail.

Eisenstein explains how movement works with perception, “To be beside oneself is unavoidably also a transition to something else, to something different in quality. . . . to be out of the usual balance and state, to move to a new state.” [3]

Flash-forward to the window hanging in the middle of the room, beyond the set of the doorway, splitting the large space into two. Film clips flicker on the opposing walls while mirage like images of the viewers turned actors cast in the scene. As I gazed through the window, in one view, I looked past the film into my own future and past, contemplating what was and what could be. As I change direction, the desk and chair are now front of me. I become voyeur watching participants as they interact with the work. In my own voyeuristic style, I began creating narratives around the new cast of community players in this living melodrama. There is the narcissist who hogs the spotlight, the hippie embracing the experience, and the dictator comfortable in the uncomfortable position of being watched. The installation is alive! Everyone has become actor in Riccio and Dufour’s masterful interactive play happening in real time otherwise known as life.

The window served as a contemplative stop. Our connection or disconnection to each other is evident when considering the unique perspectives and interactions each participant experiences. The use of media works to trigger a sense of knowing or comfort while other participants – mostly strangers create the sense of not knowing. The fact I found myself creating narratives, illustrates my need to reconcile my uneasy feelings about my own disconnection to community.

There is one last stop, the spotlight of the installation, the desk and empty chair. The desk is intimidating with its empty chair, provoking me against my will to sit down. Who will I conceive in my participation? Most likely, it will be awkward girl desperately trying to appear cool. I take my seat as lead actor in the voyeuristic dream this stance creates. I am aware of how increasingly uncomfortable I am as I sit with my back to large image of myself playing and the stare of onlookers deepens. Fighting myself and determined to stay seated until I am comfortable, a friend begins singing Blue Velvet; all becomes familiar and right. This triggers feelings of hope and connection returning me to a place of contentment as I realize I am connected to community, a small fraction in the grand design but connected just the same. Our collective memory encapsulated in film and music confirms Riccio and Dufour’s theory behind creating this work.

Providing perspective on the phenomenological aspects of memory Marker states, “Nothing sorts out memories from ordinary moments. Later on they do claim remembrance when they show their scars.” [4]

A question is asked in the official press release of the exhibition, If I were to strip away all those influences, could I conceive of my life? I suppose my life would be like John Lennon’s song Imagine, but that is only my limited view of a perceived life without current influences. If all of my current influences disappear at once, my memory would be erased. What would be left in terms of memory, I cannot be sure. I have to wonder if our current rituals of living would drastically change and our connection to each other stronger. Riccio and Dufour’s genius are evident in this work, affording us an all-too-rare glimpse into the paradoxes and complexities of perception and the subconscious.

Time-travelling to the past or projecting into the future are concepts too vast to contemplate, they must be experienced.


[1] Sally Glass, “Centraltrak-Not So Indifferent,” Art This Week ep 145 (2012), accessed October 5, 2012, http://artthisweek.com/?p=1834

[2] Maja D;Aoust, “Expanding Mind on PRN: Interviews Thomas Riccio“, The Progressive Radio Network (April 29, 2010)

[3] Sergei Eisenstein, Nonindifferent Nature: Film and the Structure of Things, trans. Herbert Marshall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 27.

[4] Marker, Chris. “La Jetée and Sans Soleil (Sunless): Two Films by Chris Marker” [Motion Picture], England, 2003. Nouveaux Pictures.

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Freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas.

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