"Amy Granat: Light 3 Ways"
June 23 - September 19 2010
Amy Granat is best known for her experimental film installations featuring celluloid that has been manipulated by scratching, cutting, or chemical alteration. Her practice though, is wide-ranging, and also includes video, sound, and photography. Granat’s photograms, in which objects are laid on top of film and then exposed to light, are related to her films in terms of her physical approach to image-making. Both of these aspects of her work reveal a fascination with transparency and opacity, and positive and negative space. If Granat’s experimentations with the photogram—a method that emphasizes the intrinsic quality of film, allowing her to “draw” with light—conjures the work of Man Ray in the 1930s, her direct manipulation of film stock is an homage to avant-garde filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage. Non-narrative, Brakhage’s films are abstract compositions with affinities to postwar Abstract Expressionist painting. Granat’s work also recalls that of avant-garde filmmakers such as Hans Richter or Viking Eggeling, both of whom made some of the first light and film experiments in the early part of the twentieth century.

Granat’s project for the New Museum, “Light 3 Ways,” is an exploration of the various ways light can be perceived. The installation consists of three discrete, yet interconnected works, including a sound piece, an outdoor video projection, and a 16mm film installation. The audio work, created in collaboration with Christopher Anderson, is a recording of the sound created when one of Granat’s scratch films passes through a projector. The sound is then enhanced by a synthesizer, and the result can be heard by using the headphones on the staircase landing between the museum’s third and fourth floors. The outdoor projection is an abstract composition of light and dark made from a digitally manipulated video transfer of a scratched 16mm film. The video, which was made through a process of removal or erasure as a means to create a series of images, leaves in its wake an almost ghostly presence on the concrete exterior wall of the building just north of the Museum. Its pulsating biomorphic forms recall the results of a Rorschach print, used by psychologists to gage and record human perception. This component of the installation can be viewed Wednesday through Sunday, sunset to sunrise, from the Bowery or the New Museum’s seventh-floor terrace. The third work consists of three looped 16mm films activated by the viewer’s presence via a motion sensor. These stuttering, delicate films give the illusion of animated drawings. The rhythmic flicker of the white lines dancing against black is wholly absorbing; meditative, almost hypnotic.

Granat’s fascination with the potential of light, sound, and movement as mediums not only links her work to postwar experimental filmmaking, but also invokes the rich, but somewhat occluded history of experimentation with kinetic art, from Marcel Duchamp to László Moholy-Nagy and Jean Tinguely. Through the phenomenon of electricity and the miracle of movement, these avant-gardists envisioned a future of limitless artistic possibility beyond painting and sculpture. Though “Light 3 Ways” is a creation of the twenty-first century—a time of myriad discoveries that make those of an earlier era seem quaint—it allows us to understand and maybe participate in a very twentieth-century sense of wonder, and see the beauty of dancing light again for the first time.

“Light 3 Ways” is organized by Amy Mackie, Curatorial Associate, and Laura Hoptman, Kraus Family Senior Curator.
New Museum curators
Courtesy the Artist and New Museum Archive