Friday, December 12, 2008

Upside down and back to front

When we were in Melbourne we saw the exhibition Intimacy at ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) curated by Anna MacDonald. There was some great work, including a wry set of drawings by Mutlu Çerkez based around responses to a profile he had set up with a dating agency serviced by a call centre. The resulting text drawings of the messages left for him had some connections for us with Ronnie van Hout’s stitch pictures of signs put up in dairies. In van Hout’s case the texts were requests posted by people searching for band members and rehearsal rooms. But back to Intimacy. From the far end of the exhibition we heard a very familiar sound. Anyone who had ever given (or sat through) a lecture in the 1970s and 1980s would have picked it immediately. A Carousel projector. The projected work was Nan Goldin’s Heartbeat. She had used the simple slide show format to remove her work from the slick multi-media presentations that have recently overwhelmed so many exhibitions. Goldin’s photo essay of friends exposing their most intimate moments was punctuated by the metronome–like beat of the Carousel moving forward one slide at a time. The counterpoint between this sturdy repetitious clunk neatly undercut the Sir John Tavener composition (sung by Bjork). Two thumbs up for the old technology.

PowerPoint has almost done for the Carousel projector. They stopped being manufactured in 2004 after more than 40 years of loyal service. Loading slides (upside down and back to front) into the 81 slots in the tray was a rite of passage for every aspiring presenter. And so was the inevitable moment when the metal ring at the base of the slide holder slipped and dumped every slide on the floor minutes before you were to go on. The Carousel projector was an icon. If you want to snap one up before they all vanish you might try Trademe. When we last looked one was going for $80.