Steve Carr has built his practice around finding the bizarre in the everyday. His previous films have documented events including a bubble popping in slow-motion on a cactus, a fabulous poodle at the groomers, and rubber bands splitting a watermelon in half.
Carr’s latest project conveys a sense of magic that is further elevated by feelings of nostalgia. Chasing the Light was filmed by six skilled drone pilots on a clear night in a North Canterbury paddock. The footage has been edited into an 18 minute loop that is projected onto six large screens and is accompanied not by unpredictable explosions, but by an unexpected silence.
Carr has highlighted his desire to create a miniature drive-in movie theatre inside the vast gallery space by utilising free-standing screens, supported by an industrial-looking steel frame. This interrupts our perceived notions of where we experience a film or a firework display when inside and outside become interchangeable.
The explosions are shared between the screens as each pilot has captured the sparks from a different angle, and without an auditory component the flashes of light continually take the viewer by surprise. The screens are positioned in a seemingly random arrangement that allows the viewer to move around the projections in a fruitless attempt to find the ideal position – a place from which the entire display can be seen.
The exhibition is disorientating as our experience of fireworks is not replicated. Instead of the loud, outdoor, neck-craning displays of November, Carr has produced an anomalous event.
The nostalgia generated by fireworks is hard to ignore and as they become increasingly restricted there is a thrill in the spectacle. In New Zealand fireworks are associated with family barbeques, Guy Fawkes displays on the New Brighton Pier, or the welcoming in of a New Year. They signify a celebration and like your birthday cake, they are still exciting even when you know what’s coming – you’ve tasted it before, or at least you think you have.
Carr’s impressive ability to craft the everyday into something wacky and unexpected is, in this case, also quite enchanting.