THURSDAY 27 – SUNDAY 30 APRIL
11:00 – 16:00 / 21′ (looped)
by Michael Pattison
A triptych that is itself the first instalment of an intended trilogy, the waves and the mantram, part 1 is a quietly engrossing look at – and delve into – the ways in which a spiritual practice can be perceived, communicated and understood. Demonstrating acute control of and sensitivity to narrative pace and visual composition, multimedia artist Markeith Jamar Chavous threads together an essayistic place-portrait that is at once singular and varied.
Privileging the testimonies of a Black male nurse living on an island off the USA’s easternmost coast on the one hand, this three-channel work also builds a plural sense of locale on the other. It achieves this plurality through a variation of evocatively low-key scenes, which can at first appear to be still photographs, and which often unfold in slow-motion. The film’s central interviewee is intermittently echoed on the soundtrack by a second voice, and the work as a whole has a sense of drifting, as if it is being pulled along by the gently pulsing drones and subtly immersive hums of its own soundtrack.
Painterly is the word, here; but then maybe poetic is too. Chavous’s instincts for both these modes is evident from the outset, in which his subject talks of past searches for spiritual meaning with a reflective and comforting matter-of-factness. As his words tail off, in comes that universally understood wall of multiplicity – the gentle flows of water – and three contrasting and equally gorgeous images of rivers. Or is it the same river at different points in its course? The colour-coding is natural enough: abundantly green, glowingly autumnal, a comparatively harsh coastal blue.
Rivers and roads abound. Chavous frames the former as forever leading to somewhere, and deploys the latter as a way to capture passing landscapes as moving ephemera, as lines of colour and light. Texture-specific street-scenes shot in Portland, Maine and Burlington, Vermont are complemented by a more epic expanse: the Atlantic Ocean. Beneath it all is a barely discernible sonic ambience, suggestive of an environment that is rooted somewhere between the geological and the urban, the abstract and the quotidian, the chiming repetitions of a tide and the rhythms of distant chitchat. It’s a continual and never-not-there practice: like breathing to live.