Charles LaBelle, "Dearborn," Jan. 12-Feb. 9, 2002, at Roberts & Tilton, 6150 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, Ca.
Charles LaBelle's newest effort, Dearborn, presents a series of two-hour-long, unedited video projections that unfold in real time, and serve to commemorate the ever-widening expanse of memory.
Shot in Dearborn, Mich., on Christmas Eve last year, these videos seek not so much to memorialize the quiet, "ordinary" landscape (a place inexorably bound in the artist's own memory since he was born there), as to understand the transfigurative quality of memory, and the human impulse to return to literal "sites" charged through with nostalgia, the subconscious desire to reassemble the scaffold of memory and time.
LaBelle shot the footage through the windshield of a moving car using small, wide-angle surveillance cameras. The video charts both a literal and emotional journey through cramped, snow-packed streets lined with cemeteries, burnt-out houses, churches and industrial complexes.
Although LaBelle's original intent at the outset of this project was to locate the Oakwood Hospital where he was born in 1964, the original impulse to find a specific place soon transmogrified into a record of "a primary experience of place," or as Gean Moreno has written, "LaBelle's explorations of the city are never divorced from his continuous inquiry of the body. He roams, collects, swallows, records, drives -- and the physical act is always as important as whatever objects result from it." The artist finds himself lost, quite literally, in the winding maze of roads and unfamiliar neighborhoods.
The experience of the drive itself becomes the focal point of this work, the image constantly shifting to the right, charting a slow and deliberate course into the heart of the city.
Another video work, presented in the small gallery, charts a course through dozens of tunnels in the Rocky Mountains. The video, entitled Weight, consists of a series of strange and distorted images of snow-capped mountains at dawn and sunset. These images are projected onto a concave acrylic disk that stands in as a kind of "rearview mirror" to document, indeed to celebrate memory and all its shadowy distortions.
Dearborn is available for $15,000 and Weight for $6,500. In addition, there are several C prints in editions of three available for $1,000.
EVE WOOD is an artist and writer who lives in L.A.