Visual Art Formerly Hanging
posted by August 20 at 9:00 AMon
A production still from Kathy Slade’s 16mm color film Tugboat (2007)
I saw this looped projection a few months ago in a show called Hold On. In the silent film, a tugboat slowly chugs into view (the film was shot in Burrard Inlet in Vancouver) and begins to turn.
Before long you realize: It’s doing donuts. This burly, practical thing has sort of, somehow, lost its shit.
The boat continues spinning, sending water radiating out from it in concentric circles. The mind is swallowed into turning along with it. Is this the way a tugboat plays? Or is this sorry boat languishing? Is this a mind that has gone haywire, an absent mind? Or are we seeing the effects of steely determination and singular focus? It’s a sad, slow slapstick routine. Maybe it has something to do with the state of shipping, of the stuckness of the economy. Maybe not.
Finally, when the boat rights itself and chugs out of view, you miss it, and wish it would come back.
To me it’s a reminder of how simple and easy art can be. I doubt it was simple or easy to commission a tugboat to do circles, but the result isn’t afraid to appear that way.