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Rosalind Nashashibi: Bachelor Machines Part I / MATRIX 223

August 26, 2007 - November 4, 2007



Rosalind Nashashibi: Bachelor Machines Part I, 2007; 16mm film installation, 31 min.; courtesy of Harris Lieberman, New York, and doggerfisher, Edinburgh. Photo: Antonio Olmos.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

Rosalind Nashashibi makes quiet, deliberate films that luxuriate in incidental details of the everyday. It could be said that nothing much happens in her films, but the same could be said for most days of our lives. What happens in her films is important, but even more important is the way in which she and her camera frame our view of it. As she has said, “All of these things I have filmed go through my filter on the world, and they are very stubbornly from my point of view, look at it like this, from here, collaborate with me on that. That’s the position: to get the viewer to collaborate with me on a particular way of seeing things.” Nashashibi shoots on 16mm, and she makes use of long takes and static camera angles, involving less an insinuation of action than a purposeful collection of images, and referencing the history of avant-garde structuralist film. Her work Eyeballing (2005), for example, frames details of the built environment that resolve as the most basic suggestion of a human face: two buzzers arrayed above an intercom speaker, or two nail holes and a knot in a worn wooden floor. The images of abstracted faces are intercut with passages observing police outside a precinct station in lower Manhattan, subtly implicating issues of voyeurism and surveillance that are at the core of any observational film and our experience of it. Although the world at large is her frequent subject, Nashashibi implicates the formal within the narrative, so her films are equally poetic and descriptive, allusive and associative.

Bachelor Machines Part I (2007), a film installation in the MATRIX Gallery, chronicles the voyage of the cargo vessel Gran Bretagna as it ventures from Italy to Sweden. Following the captain and crew as they go about their business, Nashashibi uses images, not words, to tell the story. The men talk sometimes, but not always in English, so we settle in to the task of intuiting emotion, motivation, and social relation through facial expressions and bodily cues. And, although the film treats a closed company of subjects—the men who form a forced community for the three months of confinement on an isolated shipping vessel—the artist's interest is not merely anthropological. We witness their interactions in recreational and work contexts with the fixed detachment of an embedded participant observer, but Nashashibi spies the ocean and the vessel itself with equal intensity. The framing of the oceanscape, bobbing with the rhythm of the waves through a porthole, transports us to the ship’s deck, and we are distinctly apart from the world.

Surrounded by a vast horizon of nothingness, but containing us in a confined space, the ship has its own reality, its own time. And the ocean itself is timeless, an eternity of shifting waves that have appeared the same since the beginning of the world. With her longing, lambent portrayal of the oceanscape, Nashashibi intentionally evokes the mythology of seafaring in literature and the history of painting. But she engages with the present context as well—as a cargo ship, the Gran Bretagna carries goods from port to port, one cog in the colossal machine of global capitalism. But far from an expected image of accelerated commerce in an ever-shrinking world, Bachelor Machines visualizes the real factors of labor, time, and distance. Despite our jet-fueled abstractions of the shrinking global marketplace, most goods still traverse the globe at this pace, on slow, hulking machines. In this way the ship becomes as much a protagonist as the men who sail it or the ocean that carries them all.

Rosalind Nashashibi was born in 1973 and lives and works in London. Her work has been shown in exhibitions internationally, including the ICA in London, the UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Momentum 2006: Nordic Festival of Contemporary Art, and the Scottish Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale. Solo presentations of her work have been mounted at Tate Britain, London; Art and Industry Biennial, Christchurch, New Zealand; Kunsthalle Basel; and Chisenhale Gallery, London, for which Bachelor Machines was originally commissioned. In 2003 she was the first woman to win the prestigious Beck’s Futures Award for young British artists.

Elizabeth Thomas
Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator

The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis.

Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment, Joachim and Nancy Bechtle, Maryellen and Frank Herringer, Noel and Penny Nellis, Paul L. Wattis III, and Iris Shimada.