Atom Egoyan and Juliao Sarmento

This is an installation at the San Francisco MOMA. The artists are exploring the relationship of the narrative, the audience, and the environment.

To begin with, I'll describe the environment. The screen is 4:3 ratio and is around 13x10 feet. There is a wall that is larger than the screen and it is about 22 inches from the screen. Egoyan and Sarmento want you to stand around 12 inches from the screen. This intimacy with the screen and the material both enhances and distorts the experience. At this distance, each pixel on the digital projection (rear mount) is around 3-4 mm. That is several hundred times larger than you normally see. It adds a feeling of Roy Lichtenstein while you are watching the film. The rest of the environment is completely black.

The film itself is about 10 minutes long. It has only two screen performers. Both are women. One appears to be the narrator. The narrator spends most of the time clipping her toe nails and speaking. The only other actor is another woman who spends nearly the entire movie with her head beneath the foot catching the toenail clippings in her mouth.

The POV for the camera is very close to the actors. This combined with the environment gives a very distorted feeling of being wrapped in flesh as most of the frames include only the clipper, a part of the hand, the toes of the feet, the open mouth and flared nostrils below.

Egoyan has entertained the voyeur theme in many movies before. Family Viewing and Exotica use the camera and ideas of watching other people as both a center piece for action in the film and to engage the audience by forcing them to see part of themselves in the movie. Close takes this a step farther.

The narrator tells a very disjointed story about a lucky rabbit's foot and how the rabbit is not lucky. She tells about her childhood and her own rabbit and how clipping the rabbit's toenails was mandatory because a caged rabbit doesn't get enough exercise. Meanwhile, she slowly clips her own toenails and with the clippers, deposits the clippings into the open mouth below. The mouth never swallows and the clippings accumulate on her tongue. The narrator wonders what it would take to switch our culture to use starfish for lucky charms as the starfish can regenerate limbs and a rabbit cannot. More clipping. Our narrator continues with the story and comments on how the original Snow White story includes a description of the step mother mutilating the foot of the elder daughter to fit in the glass slipper. The prince knows it is not the right woman because of the visible blood. The camera shifts a bit and we see a tatto on the ankle of the narrator and the outline of a chair cushion. She wonders if the story is meant for children and that the moral maybe "If something doesn't fit, it is not supposed to fit." The camera changes again to a shot from above where it is clear the wide open mouth is still much smaller than foot perched closely above it. The camera changes to a close up of the tongue with several clippings left there. The narrator continues with questions about "what do you think?" and finally, "does the cat have your tongue?"

The movie ends there and begins quickly again. An endless loop. Certainly, Egoyan has tickled many emotions - repulsion, stimulus, attraction, submission, and more. Working with Sarmento, he has created an intriguing work focusing on form, narrative and environment. Sarmento's other work focuses heavily on the form of the body.

See also: Moma and Sarmento

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