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Nash Gallery exhibition of New Media

Jana Larson
Axolotl No. 7
2001-2009

The piece I was most drawn to in the exhibition was the a black and white video transferred from 16 mm film by Jana Larson. She completed the piece over an eight year period, filming one segment at least on location at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, France. The piece layers images, sounds, and ideas and covers a lot of ground through exploration of visual and literary theory through psychological, metaphorical, philosophical and aesthetic planes. The audio is narration that moves back and forth between first and third person. The text takes the form of a diary with the first date of December 2 but no indicated year. A few more entries are cited. The purpose of the project seems to both delight and instruct. Didactic components are there, mixed in with more spontaneous automated segments, it is both documentary and lyrical poetry. Questions and ideas proposed and mulled over are some of the big philosophical questions about how do we live our lives, how do we find meaning in our identity, how do we relate to others in the world, human and animal, how do we see through time/space, what is eternity?

Some of the approaches explored through the traditional media of 16 mm film transferred to new media format of video are the concepts of morphology, perception, hybridization, embodiment/disembodiment, metamorphosis, personal identity, larva, salamanders, gender, becoming, form...

The layering of the visuals, autobiographical interspersed with observation of the axolotl, and observation of herself by the axolotl, respectively, are cross layered with the audio.

I've watched this video about five times now and each time I come away with new insights. It is rich in execution and ideas.