At the Art Gallery of Windsor, Silvi Simon has truly created an experience that you can walk right into. As your body fades into the darkness of the room, your imagination is freed from the material confines of the body, and swept away on swirling images into the magical dance of light waves and particles.
You begin the experience with an anticipation-building passage through a narrow space lined by a thick black drape. A printed sign provides the assurance that, despite the unusual entry into the gallery, you are indeed on the right path. Then a large, high-ceilinged room opens up before you, and you have arrived! Pictures and images projected from a 16mm film projector stream through thin rectangles of artistically suspended glass, flickering across the walls. The rhythmic whirring of the film projector provides the dominant sound in the rooms, lightly accented by a gentle tinkling of glass, like wind chimes in the breeze.
From a partially separated second room, the whirring of another projector entices the visitor further into the darkened gallery. Here an awe-inspiring flock of birds surrounds them, swooping across the walls, ceiling and floor. This time the images are projected through a globe of sorts, suspended from the ceiling in the center of the room. The different angles of the glass panes strung throughout the center of the globe are responsible for the flight of these lighted birds across every surface of the room.
Silvi Simon, the artist responsible for creating this unique experience, has travelled from Strasbourg, France, where she lives and works, to display the latest in her series of film installations entitled, Filmatrucs à verres, at the Art Gallery of Windsor as part of Windsor’s 17th annual Media City festival. Simon has done film performances throughout Europe, including Paris, Freiburg and Brussels, but her visit to Windsor marks the first presentation of her work in North America.
I caught up with Simon at the gallery to learn more her art. Seated at a table on AGW’s main floor just outside the entrance to her exhibit, Simon gazes off into the distance as she reflects on her interest in film installations and the birth of the latest in her Filmatrucs series. In traditional cinema, she explains, the source of the light and the projection is sort of hidden away behind the audience and plays no part in the experience of the film. While she highly esteems this form of cinema, Simon was interested in presenting film in a different way, one that would include experiencing the way film works, hearing the sound of the projector and knowing where the light is coming from. To draw the viewer’s awareness to the source of the film image, Simon places sculptural objects close to the projector, bringing its operation into focus. The placement of such objects also creates special effects as the film projection interacts with the different surfaces or mediums.
It was Simon’s intention to create an atmosphere with her film installations that filled the whole room, enabling people to literally walk right into the experience and to do so, she needed many film projectors. Fortunately, projectors were abundant in the market in Brussels, Simon’s home at the time, and the aspiration became a reality. Finding the thin plates of glass which were originally used in early photography, however, meant that Simon could create multiple images using only one projector and the refractive properties of the glass. It was the discovery of these little panes of glass that lead to the creation of the most recent film projection in Simon’s installation series, the one now on display at the Art Gallery of Windsor.
You can experience Filmatrucs à verres at the Art Gallery until June 19th, 2011. Silvi Simon will be at the Gallery today (Friday, May 27) at 3 p.m. to talk about her film installation and answer any questions.