Nathaniel Dorsky: Winter and Sarabande (2008)

Bookending with representations of twilight – an opening shot of light transmitted through a foregrounding grating, and a closing shot of the sun setting below a line of trees – Nathaniel Dorsky’s Winter and Sarabande convey forms of progression: a movement from dawn to dusk, shadow to light, grey tones to color, emptiness to space. Composed of quotidian images shot primarily through meshes, screens, structural occlusions, glass, and translucent objects, the films represent an indirect gaze, creating a rhythm in the absence of repetition through variations in shot length and image editing. While Winter suggests a more temporal progression in its evocation of seasons and a paradoxical juxtaposition of coldness and verdant growth (created by San Francisco’s rainy, chilled winters), Sarabande represents an visual progression in its collage of found, implicitly disrupted (or causational) images: reflections on mirrored surfaces, cast shadows, light diffraction through obstructed or porous surfaces. Illustrating a penchant for natural geometries (a shot of brightly colored red objects create a kaleidoscope effect with its refracted image through prismatic glass before shifting to reveal a Christmas tree shop window display), mirroring patterns, and changes of state (a rupture is created by a static shot of leaves that is subsequently connected to the image of foliage shaking with the wind and laden by raindrops), Dorsky’s films reinforce both the ephemeral and mediated nature of image-making, where the observer’s gaze is neither passive nor sublimated, but exists in a constant tension between equally artificially constructed representations of reality – a friction that is encapsulated in Sarabande in the reflected shot of a child in a stroller from a glass door that foreshadows a collision between dual representative images when the reflection is broken by the mother opening the door, consequently changing the reflected angle until the recorded image is ruptured and supplanted by the appearance of “real” child through the threshold of (the camera frame’s) visibility.

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