Jane & Louise Wilson b. 1967
Star City / Proton, Unity, Energy, Blizzard (2000)
Duration: 20 min.
Video shot in 303 Gallery, New York City, 2000: an installation by Jane and Louise Wilson that combines two of their moving image works, Star City and Proton, Unity, Energy, Blizzard. Star City is 8 minutes long. I don't know the length of the second work, but they are both integrated pretty much seamlessly into one ongoing loop. The installation's footage was originally shot on 16mm and transferred to DVD for exhibition. This record of the installation was shot on a DV camera.
From a review in Art in America:
"Like Leni Riefenstahl, the British twins Jane and Louise Wilson create works that estheticize power, but to obviously different ends. Unlike Hitler's favorite filmmaker, their film installations are more funereal than triumphant.
For their newest odes to eroded power and faded glory, a pair of videos called Star City and Proton, Unity, Energy, Blizzard, the Wilsons were granted access to high-security sites of the financially stricken and scaled-back Russian space program. The videos were shot, respectively, at Star City, the main training center for Russian cosmonauts just outside Moscow, and the Baikonur cosmodrome, the massive base of the space program located in modern-day Kazakhstan (though the program is still operated by Russia). These sites, once beacons of Soviet power, are now in such a state of decline that it is sometimes difficult to tell which facilities are still in use and which are abandoned. This sense of desolation is heightened by the near-total absence of people in their footage.
The looped videos were projected on two facing sets of double screens in the gallery's corners. The Wilsons used a number of subtle filming and editing techniques which are noticeable, yet not disruptive or distracting. Scenes shift from near to far, motion to still, but without a jumpy quality. Corresponding to the visual rhythm are the ambient sounds that gave the installation a musical quality-the clunking and whirring of machinery punctuated with silence. The editing juxtaposes things old and new, insignificant and iconic, and spaces vast and intimate: a launchpad's metal bay doors touched with rust swing open to reveal a vast desert horizon with a brilliant blue sky, an empty chair spins around in an enclosed testing chamber. As the camera pans across a room, the images sometimes seem to slide across one screen and onto the next.
The same scenes are often shot from different angles, with closely related but disjunctive images presented side by side or on opposing screens. For example, a large centrifugal training pod (used to simulate gforce) spins around like a carnival ride in a room with an elaborately tiled floor. For one view, a stable camera is trained on the whirling apparatus; in another, the camera is mounted on the machine itself as it follows its dizzying orbit. A particulaly eerie sequence involves an underwater lab-a replica of the Mir space station-used for antigravity training. Filmed from above and below the water's surface, the behemoth station sits immersed like a sunken ship, shrouded in water and silence.
The grandiosity and promise of Russia's space program are belied by scenes showing camels passing next to a rusted, disused launch pad, or space suits stacked on shelves like corpses in a catacomb. When filming these videos, the Wilsons couldn't have known that the Russian government would soon decide to crash the beleagered Mir into the ocean. The news, announced during their show's run last fall, added to the installation's somber quality. Their project shows just how far we still are from the cosmic dreams of Stanley Kubrick's 2001."