Holt/Smithson Foundation Friday Films — "Revolve" on April 24, 2020
Through April and May 2020 Holt/Smithson Foundation invites you to join us for Friday Films.
Between 12 noon Friday and 12 noon Saturday on Mountain Time (the time zone of our home base in New Mexico), every Friday over the next two months we present a selected moving image work by Nancy Holt and/or Robert Smithson on Vimeo and IGTV for twenty-four hours.
Our fourth Friday screening is Nancy Holt’s Revolve (1977). The film will be available from 12 noon MDT April 24 to 12 noon MDT on April 25, 2020.
The film is guest introduced by artist Charlotte Prodger.
Revolve is a landmark early example of video art by Holt. It focuses on her friend Dennis Wheeler (1948-1977), the Vancouver-born writer and filmmaker. Revolve is an evocative meditation on illness “biologically possessing the body.” The video, recorded in 1976, opens with Wheeler typing at his desk on an analog typewriter and shuffling in his classic 1970s rattan chair. Off-camera Nancy Holt asks “how did you first find out you had leukemia?”
Over the next seventy-seven minutes Wheeler describes his experiences in hospitals, his chemotherapy, and the adjustment to “normal” life during a remission from the disease, when the tape was made. Three cameras capture his portrait in a revolving motion, showing Wheeler’s face and hands. Glimpses of the camera operators can be seen, as Holt’s steady voice asks questions, and Wheeler’s environment around his desk becomes increasingly familiar.
At times Holt edits the narrative so phrases return, with Wheeler seen speaking the same words from different angles. He describes his six-week treatment at Vancouver General Hospital and the shock of returning to the world. This reentry Wheeler describes as “coming back from the moon,” requiring his “whole conceptual framework” to be reset, and with this his understanding of artmaking.
In a review the year the film was made, Richard Lorber noted: “In her sincerity and sympathy with Wheeler’s outlook Holt has avoided any treatment which might be construed as exploitative of the morbid or sensationalistic aspects of death. However, her restraint may also have inhibited a fuller exploitation of her own resources as an artist and of her medium (as demonstrated in some of her earlier works, such as the brilliant videotape Underscan).”