Stefana McClure

Films on paper

February 9 – March 23, 2001

123 Watts is pleased to present Films on paper, Stefana McClure’s second solo show in New York. In 2000, she presented Footnotes and Subtitles at Wynn Kramarsky. Concurrently with Films on paper, she is part of Between language and Form at Yale University Art Gallery.

Stefana McClure turns text into image. Her "Films on paper" are minimal compositions of two blurred lines floating at the bottom of rectangular monochromatic screens. The works consist of the superimposition of the subtitles of an entire movie. Hours of translated dialogues are reduced to a ghost image, dense in the middle, fading towards the edges. The works have the very unpaper glow of high tech video screens.

"The tension between Minimalism and linguistic density is tantalizingly apparent in the work of Stefana McClure, who by creating linguistic palimpsests, compresses experience and offers a visual idea of communication". Stefana McClure says she’s "fascinated by the grey area between languages and cultures". Originally from Northern Ireland, she spent almost ten years in Japan, studying paper making techniques and mastering the language. She now lives in New York.

Her "films on paper" are often compared to Hiroshi Sugimoto’s long exposure photographs of empty movie theaters. His white screens are the result of the entire length of time the film runs. The same distillation of time and erasure of information occur in Stefana McClure’s enigmatic screens. She watches an entire film frame by frame, traces every subtitle on separate sheets of paper, then applies the sheets successively on a background of transfer paper and inscribes all the subtitles on top of each other. As the transcribed text builds-up, the surface of the colored transfer paper gets slowly eroded: the image is build by removing.

Stefana McClure is attracted to the physical appearance of super-captions, close captions and intertitles. She likes to follow font sizes, spacings and kernings scrupulously. These peripheral elements become the center of the work. Three silent Japanese films differ from the other works in the exhibition: in Woman of Tokyo, A Mother Should be Loved and An Inn in Tokyo the superimposed intertitles appear vertically across the screen as iridescent blocks of condensed information.

Despite a carefully controlled process making, Stefana McClure subjects herself to a series of "non-decisions". The material dictates its own rules. The size of the work is always determined by the format of the monitor she watches the movie on. Dimensions vary from a standard 21 inch to a widescreen TV, and from a pocket size DVD player to the screen of her lap-top. The color and texture of the transfer paper is restricted to availability on the office supply market: graphite, red wax, light blue, dark blue, white.

At times, she uses existing anomalies of the material. She deliberately looked for irregularities in the roll of graphite transfer paper she used to make H is for House: Japanese subtitles to a film by Peter Greenaway. The scratchy grey background has the feeling of a used home video tape. But she doesn’t provoke accidents, never corrects an existing mistake either. She made different size versions of Man of Aran: Japanese subtitles to a film by Robert J. Flaherty because the subtitles were so wrong, it was very funny to transcribe them.

Josee Bienvenu