I Film through the Camera of Giants: Keaton and McQueen

Posted: February 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

Steve McQueen -Deadpan (1997)

Steve McQueen was born in London (1969). He studied art and design at Chelsea College of Art and Design and at Goldsmiths College where he moved to an interest in video and its installation possibilities.

McQueen’s video installations usually are multi-projections (multi-channel, in art parlance), using a minimal vocabulary and done often in black, though this is not through-going in his work. He has noted influences from both the French Realist Cinema and the cinematic production of Warhol.

McQueen first came to notice with his video work Bear (1993), which is comprised of two nude males pinning one another through the gaze with the camera explicating the range of affective emotions this draws from them. Deadpan (1997), above, is a recasting of the famous Buster Keaton stunt where a house’s wall falls down upon an unnoticing McQueen.  Both Keaton and McQueen are left untouched due to the fortuitous placement of a open window.

Both of these early works were silent, Black and white, and had McQueen as a protagonist.: Drumroll (1998) was to vary from this production as McQueen was to film in Color and to use sound in the piece which was recorded by mounting of three cameras onto an empty Metal drum and rolled through the streets of Manhattan. The three videos were projected onto three walls of the exhibition space. In 1999 McQueen won the Turner Prize.

McQueen’s 2008 film Hunger, which tells the tale of the  Irish 1981 Irish hunger strike, was shown, in premiere, at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and  McQueen went on to received the Caméra d’Or Award at Cannes for his directing.  McQueen, in the following year, represented Britain at the 2009 Venice Biennale.

Other Work of Interest by McQueen: White Elephant (1998, which includes sculpture), Queen and Country, (2007, stamps of killed British Soldiers from the Iraq War), Gravesend, (2007), giardini (gardens) (2009, for Venice Biennale), Rayners Lane, (2008)

Buster Keaton – Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)

“Silence is of the gods; only monkeys chatter”  Buster Keaton


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