Gray Nicol

Oh Shlemiehl! (1977)

11 min 52 secSingle channel / Digital Video / Black & White / Sound

The camera observes the shadow of a Kentia palm which appears and reappears on the wall according to changing light. On the voiceover Nicol considers “the authority of a true representation” in nature and technology. Nicol's voice moves haltingly, accompanied by the sound of ballpen on paper. Early in the video Nicol's words are anticipated by a faint and premature echo. Towards the end of the video, still images of the camera apparatus are intercut between the image of the palm shadow. The final image is a still of Nicol pointing the video camera at a subject outside the frame. It is accompanied by a harsh tone of feedback. The video ends.

Transcript of the voice over:

"My attention is drawn to the shadow play on the wall... shifting patterns of light and shade…an image of the morning light... clouds moving quickly across the sun... a leaf of the Kentia palm is almost there... emerging with the light and dissolving again... in a picture of things changing from one moment to the next. Not so much a picture of those things as of their cumulative effect…

The changing state of things presented to me in this shifting image… how concise the lights clouds moving quickly by… still in the wind... unresisting and in constant metamorphosis from cloud to cloud... here on my wall in modulations of light and definition is the action of nature depicted with such economy and elegance… the image needs no interpretation.

Without intervention or translation I am given a concise expression of the dynamics of the elements and their interaction in harmonious unity. These things and their contingent effects which I know and name discretely have produced an image… the existence of which cannot be separated from this state of affairs. In fact, the changing definition of this shadow from existence to non-existence constitutes it’s attachment to these things.

The fact that this picture has a direct attachment to what it depicts gives it the authority of a true representation without doubt. At any time it will depict correctly… as far as I can see… the conditions to which it is attached continuously, instantly. There is no need to consider its’ similarity. If I cannot locate the substance which endows the evanescent data of experience with unity, where am I?

Where was I, now?

This is its sense one must keep in mind hence it’s meaning as expected relates these things, as they are connected." (Harsh video tone)

Other works by Gray Nicol

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