About this artwork
Since the late 1990s, Los Angeles–based artist Sharon Lockhart has become widely known for her visually reductive, rigorously conceptual films. As a student, she was drawn to the work of Chantal Ackerman, Yvonne Rainer, Michael Snow, and Andy Warhol because of the way these artists negotiated the stasis of the photographic image with the narrative flow of cinema. Although candid in appearance, her films slowly reveal themselves to be the result of elaborate preparation and extensive collaboration with her subjects.
Filmed in a continuous take with a fixed-angle camera, NO captures Masa and Yoko Ito, a Japanese farming couple, systematically mulching a plot of land. For over half an hour, they arrange tidy piles of straw and then disperse them over a field with minimalist, almost sculptural precision. Lockhart presents, documentary-style, a temporal sequence of events, but the film resists any clear narrative. Viewers share in a sense of discovery by watching the performance, yet they are actually being offered a sort of hyper-reality: the artist creates expectations that do not seem to correspond to the disproportionate attention she has paid to her mundane subject. Lockhart described her process in the following way: “I organized NO around the optics of seeing … I had the farmers make piles of hay in the reverse perspective of the camera, following the camera’s field of vision… . After working from background to foreground to make the piles, the farmers come in and slowly spread the hay over just that portion of the field revealed by the camera, from foreground to background, as if they are covering a canvas.” As the figures move through horizontal fields of color in a choreographed fashion, Lockhart’s film appears almost as a living landscape painting.
This work is inspired by No-no ikebana, a freestyle form of Japanese flower arranging. The practice is based upon the cycles and rules of agriculture, using fruits and vegetables directly from the farm. As Lockhart has explained, “It highlights a relationship to nature and farming that is somewhat contrary to the overly mechanized large-scale agribusiness prevalent in the United States.”
Currently Off View
- Contemporary Art
- Sharon Lockhart
- United States
- 16mm color film, optical sound; 32:30 min. loop Edition number three of six
- Restricted gift of C. Bradford Smith and Donald L. Davis; Contemporary Art Discretionary and The Orbit funds
- © 2003 Sharon Lockhart.