In the Blink of an Eye

I discovered Greta Alfaro‘s work a few weeks ago while dining at Monkey Town 5 in Barcelona. Monkey Town is an immersive dining experience combining gastronomy and video art. In other words, guests watch a programme of video art while being treated to a delicious five-course meal and plenty of wine. The evening was opened by In Ictu Oculi where we see a flock of vultures ravage a feast carefully set on a picnic table in a barren landscape. With this dramatic start, Greta Alfaro set the tone for what was to be an extraordinary and highly thrilling night. 

“From its title (meaning ‘in the blink of an eye’) onwards, Greta Alfaro’s In Ictu Oculi (2009) is concerned with the viewer’s experience of time: the eye is yours. The work’s title, which alludes to the brevity of human existence, is shared with a number of vanitas paintings from the seventeenth century, and, like them, Alfaro’s video treats the stuff that surrounds us as coded references to our own demise. A dinner table, laden with plates of food and wine bottles, its chairs waiting to be occupied, stands in a scrubby, semi-mountainous landscape, a breeze flickering its tablecloth. The table’s placement, in the centre of the frame (the shot is still), makes unmistakeable allusion to painted conventions – the Last Supper, the Supper at Emmaus. And yet the occupants, when they arrive, transform the table’s Biblical and epicurean suggestions into something nightmarish and deathly. The stilled moment of the painted meal becomes subject to cinematic time: movement is change. Vultures descend, from nowhere, their bulk and scrabble bringing instability to the implied order of the scene. Yet the meal’s duration, and its strange quietness (aside from the flapping of wings and chink of claw on plate) lend it a human quality: this might be the soundtrack to a medieval banquet. The birds here, like Hitchcock’s, act out repressed human desires (to gorge oneself): they’re us, with the mask off.”

Text by Ben Street on Saatchi

In Ictu Oculi by Greta Alfaro, 2009. Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound). Duration: 10:37

Greta Alfaro enjoys documenting the process of destruction, meanwhile commenting on capitalism, consumerism, and the transience of life. A similar concept was explored in her piece In Praise of the Beast (2009), where two wild boars find a giant wedding cake abandoned in a snowy landscape. Watch what happens:

In Praise of the Beast by Greta Alfaro, 2009. Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound). Duration: 14:58

And speaking of documenting destruction, Sam Taylor-Wood and Ori Gersht also have an interesting take. See here

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