Because I live in a rural area, it’s been difficult to find and document a new media installation. So, I thought I’d share a piece that I stumbled on in 2007, after a long day of looking at hundreds of art pieces. The antiquated technology this film projection in these days of hyper stimulative environments seemed quaint and restful.
“Shoeshine Blues”, Francis Alÿs installation, includes a 16mm projector playing an animation loop of a very hand drawn shoe shine, while simultaneously playing responsive music interludes. That is, certain gestures in the shining of the shoe trigger musical notes. In the installation, each drawing in the peg-holed animation covers the two walls. By framing each drawing, does the singular get elevated to the collective?
Alÿs chose both the laborious shoe shine and a the time-intensive method of animation to visibly measure human labor. The artist is headquartered in Mexico City, an example of the future city, with a vast amount of human labor. Is there perhaps an economic statement made here as well?
Although I am not sure what the lyrics mean — “Nothing we are, Nothing will be, I see you are, I tell you be” — they encourage the viewer to try and attach meaning. The ambiguity of the work’s intention is provocative.
This piece makes the viewer think not only of the beauty of the handmade, but the beauty of hand labor, illustrated by the melodies, with the suggestion of a human spirituality or humanism.