May 29–September 5, 2015
Blaffer Art Museum : 120 Fine Arts Building Houston, TX 77204-4018
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10am–5pm
Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler: Sound Speed Marker
Sound Speed Marker features a trilogy of video installations, related photographs and an outdoor sculpture by the renowned Swiss-American artist duo Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler. In Sound Speed Marker, the Texas towns and landscapes of Paris, Sierra Blanca and Ryan—each cinematically defined by their fleeting experiences as actual or ostensible film locations—take center stage as Hubbard / Birchler and their crew pay close attention to these places and the people who live there.
Grand Paris Texas (2009), the first work in the trilogy, revolves around the Grand, an abandoned movie theater in Paris, Texas, whose rise and fall anchor residents’ reflections on their personal histories with cinema, their memories of the Grand and their connections to the 1984 Wim Wenders film that borrowed the town’s name as its title and to Bruce Beresford’s Tender Mercies (1983) and King Baggot’s classic silent film, Tumbleweeds (1925).
Movie Mountain (Méliès) (2011) evolved out of Hubbard / Birchler’s research in and around Sierra Blanca after they followed rumors about a place nearby called Movie Mountain and uncovered its possible relationship to Gaston Méliès, the lesser known brother and business partner of the famous filmmaker George Méliès. Following a group of horseback riders to Movie Mountain, the project features local residents whose relatives performed in a long-forgotten silent picture, as well as a script-writing cowboy who has dreamed of being in movies since hearing of the mountain as a child.
Giant (2014), the final work in the trilogy, takes its title from the 1956 classic featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean while jumping back and forth between two narratives: the audio-visual exploration of the ruin and terrain of Reata, the iconic home of the epic film’s Benedict family, and a fictional mise-en-scène of a 1950s Burbank clerical office where a woman types out stenographic notes on her Underwood. Her insistent typing is of the 1955 contract between Warner Bros. and the Fort Davis property owner whose land, horses and cattle became the backdrop for the legendary movie.
The three ruins at the heart of each work in the trilogy represent three different aspects of cinema: the theater in Grand Paris Texas is the site of its experience, the locus of projection and immersion on the part of the viewer; Movie Mountain (Méliès) indicates the site of its making, the locus of action; and in Giant, the set represents the site of direction, the locus of ideas becoming form.
Sound Speed Marker removes the clichés associated with Texas from their isolated existence as singular ideas and inflects them with real times, places and people who collectively deny their simple perpetuation. More broadly, the site, subject and mystique of Texas and its associated cinematic imagery serve as a platform for reflection on filmmaking itself.
Sound Speed Marker is organized by Ballroom Marfa and is accompanied by a comprehensive 256-page catalog co-published with Ballroom Marfa, Blaffer Art Museum and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. With contributions by Anne Ellegood; Inka Graeve Ingelmann; Claudia Schmuckli; Seán Kissane; Fairfax Dorn and Jeffrey Kastner.
This program has been made possible by the generous support of Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; L & M Charitable Foundation, Inc.; National Endowment for the Arts; Texas Commission on the Arts; the Aargauer Kuratorium, Switzerland; The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston; and Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council. The presentation at Blaffer Art Museum is made possible, in part, by Jereann and Holland Chaney, the Cecil Amelia Blaffer von Furstenberg Endowment for Exhibitions and Programs and the Houston Endowment, Inc. Additional support comes from the Blaffer Art Museum Major Exhibition Fund, the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, the Jo and Jim Furr Exhibition Endowment at Blaffer Art Museum, and the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation. Additional support provided by the Bill & Bettye Nowlin Research Fellowship in Photography at the University of Texas at Austin.