Images Blog 2 Andrew James Paterson 5/4/08


Yes. The second night and it begins with a programme of works by this year's Spotlight Artist: Nelson Henricks.

Nelson is famous and justifiably so. When I first clicked into his work in the early nineties at YYZ, I was struck by the complexity of his audio tracks. They were far more layered and complex than the works of most of his contemporaries. The pictures were also pretty good, meaning challenging, but the audio was fantastic. Nelson is both an audio artist and a musician, professions often thought to be oppositional. And he was already clearly working in a mode that I have a huge fascination with - one where sound and picture often exist subjectively thematically whatever dependently from one another but formally tight as hell. Su Freidrich, Chris Marker, Steve Reinke, Gary Kibbins - pretty illustrious company. His credit for Time Passes is for Words, Images, and Sounds. Rather Godardian and very accurate.

Nelson opines, in Crush, that art and psychoanalysis fail to make serious transformations but science most certainly does. However, science is anything but fixed and rigid. Science is itself a big playful grid and its molecules are a huge and mischievous grid-maker constantly threatening to burst into complete abstraction. Many of Nelson's tapes are on the verge of abstraction - especially Planetarium in which colour-field painting mates with its intellectual descendant - hip-hop and techno. Henricks, like all good time-based artists and musicians - sees numbers and the alphabet as the ultimate working grids. I watch and listen to the renowned sequence in Comedie where the subway traveller counts the squares in the grid marking the flor and the walls dans le Metro and arrives at that wonderful tautological conclusion - Downtown. I note that I still haven't outgrown my own aversion to stepping on cracks, lest I fall down a horrible manhole where there are neither men nor humans nor molecules to play with - only deathly concrete.


The two installations comprising Henricks' exhibition Undertones - at Gallery 44 - are also both intense and playful. The Sirens, composed with Super-8, video, guitar amps and a 'slide show", is a low-fi symphony. Voice is a sound and not a mere purveyor of words - it transmits phenomena. The present tense denies past while preventing future. Sound and sonic reflexes are bodily where words (except automatic writing and improvised sound poetry?) are distant from body. The band is comprised of different parts existing in relation to each other. Countdown is literally a countdown. Henricks inventories the everyday in his apartment. Also shot on Super-8, here Henricks had to rely on his internal (bodily) clock to do his in-camera editing. Nelson Henricks reclaims the expression 'bodily clock" away from alarmist biological-determinist scenarios and reclaims it, making the phrase both fun and sexy.