Storytelling Art

The Plot Device Thickens

Jacob Proctor took the unusual title of his latest Aspen Art Museum exhibition, Trapping Lions in the Scottish Highlands, from an interview between Alfred Hitchcock and the French New Wave auteur François Truffaut.

By Nora Burnett Abrams November 1, 2013 Published in the Holiday 2013 issue of Aspen Sojourner

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Gerard Byrne, (Figures ) Some analogies surveyed, and organized into concrete poetry and conceptual film forms, on dates between 2001-2011), 2001-2011. 16mm film, B&W, sound, 9 min.

The North by Northwest director was explaining the concept of the MacGuffin, a singular plot device that inspires the action of a story but ultimately proves unimportant or arbitrary; think the character of Carlotta Valdes in Hitchcock’s own Vertigo (she never actually appears in the film) or “Rosebud” in Citizen Kane. Proctor’s title here establishes the conceptual premise of the exhibition: a fascination with what storytelling does, rather than with the actual story itself.

The pieces on display range from film to photography to sculpture, but all of the works present their own insular worlds, a conceit reinforced by an exhibition layout that isolates each installation. Proctor’s design, in fact, recalls a film lot, where multiple stage sets stand adjacent to one another, though each one evokes a wildly different world. It also functions as both a logical solution to the problem of presenting nine discrete spaces and a conceptual exercise that allows the viewer to experience physically those structures that give us these stories.

What becomes clear in works like those by Katarina Burin or Mac Adams is that the making of art has always been about storytelling. But rather than conceiving the work of art as completing a story or as offering a linear progression of a tale, these works instead become completely self-reflective. Each invites you into its own, immersive world and, once you are there, never lets you leave.

Proctor, however, has left. He departed the AAM for the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society in mid-November. Like his send-off show, however, he will not be soon forgotten.

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