Widely recognized as an innovative and highly influential filmmaker, Leslie Thornton is perhaps best known for her epic, 25-year serial work Peggy and Fred in Hell, which follows its title characters who, in Thornton’s words, are “raised by television“ and live in a „post-apocalyptic splendor…adrift in the detritus of prior cultures.“ Unknown to her during her own childhood, both Thornton’s father and grandfather worked as scientists on the Manhattan Project (which developed first Atomic bomb). She attributes having learned this as an adult to why the atomic bomb and themes of apocalypse appear in some of her works. Indeed, themes running through much of Thornton’s work include language, childhood, nuclear war, technology, ethnography, seriality and narrative structure.
The main work presented in this exhibition is a three-channel installation titled Luna (2013). On each screen there is an image of the parachute-jump tower at Coney Island. Each image is captured and modified so that the reference to place and object is transformed, and subsumed, only to reappear as another form of spectacle. There are occasional figures, walking by, and there are a great many seagulls punctuating the shifting surfaces of the image. Thornton’s project deals with the relationship between chronology, technology, mediation, and with the “historical” as an artifact of the cinematic/digital image. Luna is an invocation of loss, as well as a tacit critique of nostalgia. How do you address history with something as fragmentary and minute as cinema? What occurs and is at stake in today’s digital absorption of the “world”? By focusing on the presence of the technical image, Luna addresses the trace: an impression, a trace of a voice, a trace of the disappearance of voices, an unflinching engagement with the passing away of place. In Luna, the trace is almost subsumed, it saturates the auditory field, and in this diffusion, it (almost) disappears, leaving but a ghost, an audial echo, riding the repetitive circulation of increasing static/noise: memory’s future.
Also shown in this exhibition, Leslie Thornton’s SNAP: Oil/Air/Water (2013) made its World Premiere at Thornton’s solo screening of her work at London’s Serpentine Gallery in 2013. Filmed at La Brea Park in Los Angeles, SNAP: Oil/Air/Water is the first in a new series of works by Leslie Thornton that extend the premise of photography into a framework of passing time.