Simon Starling (b. 1967, United Kingdom) currently lives and works in Copenhagen. His work links artistic practice and knowledge production and is informed by an interest in technology, production, dislocation, and collaboration. He won the Turner Prize in 2005.
El Eco, 2014
Installation, variable dimensions; video (35mm), 11 min 18 sec loop
Courtesy of the artist and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
Simon Starling’s film El Eco is concerned with the traces of a largely forgotten mural by the British sculptor Henry Moore realized in the early days of Mexico City’s Museo Experimental El Eco. In 1953 an accompanying dance performance by a young dancer, Pilar Pellicer, was conceived in relation to Moore’s work by El Eco’s founder and architect, the German artist Mathias Goeritz. Filmed at the Museo Experimental in 2014 during the Day of the Dead festival, Starling’s El Eco haunts Goeritz’s now carefully restored architecture with its own interdisciplinary past.
By inviting Pilar Pellicer, now a celebrated actor, back to El Eco and using still photographs from her 1953 performance as the key frames around which to structure the film’s storyboard, Starling’s El Eco charts Pellicer’s retrospective search for those few frozen moments immortalized in black-and-white. It is a search that entails summoning her fifteen-year-old self, while simultaneously confronting the limitations of her seventy-six-year-old body. With the momentary introduction of the 1953 “ghost frames” – populated by the vast skeletal creatures in Moore’s mural – into the contemporary moving image, a form of institutional séance emerges, constantly flic-flacing between the past and present. The absence of any real choreography for Pellicer’s 1953 “performance” builds an intriguing free-space between those few surviving photographic moments – a space of speculation and slippage.
The film’s “then and now” visual narrative is augmented by a sparse musical soundtrack by Joshua Abrams subtly alluding to traditional Mexican folk songs, intermittent moments of ambient sound, and the occasional mechanical click of a camera shutter, that combine to foster the sense of a fractured and fragmented reality.
El Eco, 2014, Installation view Göteborg Konsthall, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler