Elisabeth Subrin

Lost Tribes and Promised Lands

2-channel video installation, 16mm to HD, salvaged wood, 6:00 loop

"In the days following the September 11 attacks on New York, Subrin took a battered 16mm Bolex camera out into her neighborhood in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, shooting houses and storefronts that had then become suddenly and compulsively festooned with American flags and other accretions of patriotic paraphernalia. Nearly a decade later, with the same camera, on the same date and at the same approximate hour of the day, she attempted to retrace her own steps, now only half-remembered and largely conjectured from the 2001 footage itself: alienated from her own work by time, she approached it as a found object. She combined the two reels into a double-screen loop, allowing for a visual comparison between then and now.

Once again, Lost Tribes and Promised Lands expresses a longing to go backwards, to hold on to the past as a way of making sense of (or perhaps to stop) the ongoing flow of time. We see there is a difference: some buildings remain largely the same, many have changed only superficially, while others have completely disappeared in a decade of aggressive gentrification. A makeshift memorial has become a permanent commemorative plaque, delis have transmuted into chic bistros. A window that once displayed a flyer of Osama Bin Laden with a target drawn on his forehead now bears in the same spot a handwritten sign advertising soft-serve yogurt. In some shots, the same building appears canted in the frame first to the right, then to the left, both mirroring and opposing its own temporal twin.

Presented in installation at Sue Scott Gallery, Lost Tribes and Promised Lands is projected behind a wall made from the kind of battered wood found covering urban building sites—always salvaged from past projects, never truly new. It is a material that signifies both construction and demolition, and a barrier to easy viewing; it recalls both a temporary shelter and a martial barricade."

Ed Halter, "Again," from Elisabeth Subrin: Her Compulsion To Repeat

Thenceforward and Forever Free, Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WI
Neighbo(u)rhood, The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA
Greater New York, PS1/MoMA, Queens, New York
Let's Dance, Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Paris France
Elisabeth Subrin: Her Compulsion To Repeat, Sue Scott Gallery, New York, NY
Lost Tribes: Elisabeth Subrin, Light Industry at X-initiative, Dia/Chelsea, New York (work in progress)