Pattern Recognition: Art and Music Videos in Middle Tennessee brings together videos and digital photographs by four artists working in the Middle Tennessee region, among them, Vanderbilt’s John Warren, lecturer in art, whose 2011 film Notturno is a cornerstone of the exhibit on view through October 8 at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts.
Absorbing and unpredictable with their animated landscapes, geometrical compositions, and other invented scenarios, the works in the exhibition in the Frist’s Conte Community Arts Gallery “resist linear narrative,” said Mark Scala, chief curator. “Instead, they explore the technical capacity of digital media to alter our sense of time and reality, showing natural and computer-generated patterns that weave, ripple, and flow in unexpected ways.”
A time-based media artist who teaches video art and film fundamentals in the Department of Art, Warren has completed many short works that seek to question and to interpret that which transcends language. He will screen some of his 16 mm films and answer questions on Friday, July 28, as part of the Frist Friday summer concert series from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Frist’s Turner Courtyard. His lyrical films and installations have been exhibited internationally at a wide range of galleries and festivals.
Having demonstrated artistic excellence with his film/video work, Warren was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Tennessee Arts Commission for 2016-2017. Nashville’s Broadway—the embodiment of a certain aspect of the city’s spirit—is the subject of his latest short film, Honky Tonky, and the first film he completed with the $5,000 fellowship.
“As the film traces the geography of the landscape, the overlapping imagery reveals embedded poetry and history,” explained Warren in an interview with Nashville Arts Magazine (July 2017). “I am interested in how layers of film emulsion can reference layers of history, layers of meaning, and layers of perception.”
In an earlier cine-installation, Phantom Engineer (2015), Warren constructed a meditation on Nashville’s history as a hub for commerce. When he returned to Nashville after being away for fourteen years, he became reacquainted with the ubiquitous presence of freight trains and was struck by “the kinship that trains have with my film camera, another product of the Industrial Revolution. My decision to document and display these images with a 16 mm motion picture camera and film projectors instead of digital media is critical for articulating the relationship between the subject and the historical situation of the medium.”
Ghostly images of semi-transparent trains “endlessly flicker across the gallery wall,” Warren described. “The representational landscape of industrial Nashville is complicated by the abstracted movement within the frame. The overall effect simultaneously contemplates Nashville’s past and present at a time when the city is experiencing rapid growth and moving into an uncertain future.”
Warren is also working on several other projects that focus on the city as a character, including a film installation, Future Tense, that focuses on the plethora of construction cranes in downtown Nashville.