Geometric destruction

The beauty of dilapidation reveals the cyclical nature of life. As the grandiose is detached from the grand, each component is shown in its singular form. The seamlessness of creation is fractured, unmasking the creator’s artifice. Life is seen as it is: unfiltered and unaware.

Capturing the subtle transformations of physical, natural and human forces, Michael Nyman seeks to unveil the principles of truth, which lie at the root of each image. Fixating on the raw unfiltered state of humanity and creation, Nyman captures the pathos of being. The Tufts University Art Gallery, located in the Aidekman Arts Center until May 17, houses “Images Were Introduced,” an exhibition on film and photography by the artist. Spanning his 50-year photographic archive, the exhibition touches on the multi-faceted nature of Nyman’s work across mediums.

Featuring photographic stills of the collapse of the Cine Opera, a series of ‘grids’ or compilations of multiple pictures into ordered geometric frames, and the centerpiece “NYman With A Movie Camera” (2010), the exhibition explores both the process and product of creation. Sequentially progressing, the exhibition begins with destruction, ebbs into order and culminates with a cinematic juxtaposition of disorder and order. The pulsating rhythm of the cinematic show radiates through the exhibition’s three rooms, setting the eerie mood.

While intrigued by the inventive perspectives featured in the Cine Opera stills, which captured the devolution of a Mexico City opera house into a hovel, I found the mastery of perspectival manipulation to be in Nyman’s grid “Braque Series.” In this work, the viewer’s eye tumbles downward, bouncing off of the concrete steps and refracting off of the angular walls. The perception of depth is wholly remarkable; the descent is seemingly limitless. Framed by angular horizontal lines and the linear repetition of the staircase, the building stairwell evolves beyond its primary practical function. Nyman succeeds in transforming the mundane and the everyday into the revolutionary. Arranged in a three by three grid, the “Braque Series” stills are unified by their unceasing undulation.

Synchronized with cinematic editing, Nyman’s film “Images Were Introduced” ascends on crescendos, subsequently descending on diminuendos. The film is comprised of images from Nyman’s 50-year photographic archive; it is a cinematic remix that depicts the evolution of people and ideals on a global scale. The images match the musical score with mathematical precision. One is granted the control of a composer. The 12 screens, which simultaneously display different clips from the film, can be divided into string, woodwinds, brass and percussion sections. Pulsating to the rhythm of the music, the images visually depict the controlled chaos of the score. An interpretation of the Soviet artist Dziga Vertov’s film, “Man with a Movie Camera,” produced in 1929, “Nyman With A Movie Camera” is an inventive film about filmmaking. Intentionally revealing the artist’s hand in its creation, the movie acknowledges the subjectivity of artistic creation. The artist is autonomous; he chooses the elements that are concealed and revealed. However, Nyman and Vertov’s films are significant because they do not seek to mask the truth of nature or their role in creating the film. You can see both of the artists’ hand in their final products.

A common theme emerges in all of Nyman’s work. Inspired by both the creator and the creation, I gravitate toward works that emulate the rises and falls of the cycle of nature. Attracted to the grotesque in Goya’s “Disasters of War” (1810-1820) prints as well as the product of technological innovation in Calder’s mobiles and Ganson’s mechanical sculptures, I find beauty in the extremes. Nyman’s photographic stills revert the commonplace divide between destruction and creation. The pieces on exhibition are simply an interpretation of this theme in another medium. By recording destruction and geometrically rearranging its chaos into a thought-provoking product of innovation, Nyman injects structure into the ruins, beauty into the fallen. His stills can be examined to arrive at a comparison between the previous trends in art and architecture and the cutting-edge field of photographic media.