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Nelson Henricks

About the artist | Video clips | Printer friendly

Video still from <b>Shimmer</b> by Nelson Henricks

Nelson Henricks, Shimmer, (1995), 7:34 min.

Video still from <b>Window (fenêtre)</b> by Nelson Henricks

Nelson Henricks, Window (fenêtre), (1997), 3:25 min.

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About these works

Shimmer (1995)
Distributed by Vtape.

"Our apartment was one hundred years old, and it was haunted. Friends suggested that we paint a black spot on the ceiling to get rid of the ghost. She wasn't a bad ghost, she was just an old hooker. She kept turning the front hall light on and off, and opening doors for her johns, who came at all hours of the night. She loved sex and she loved parties, so we were forced to have sex and parties all the time to appease her. Other ghosts were also there: immigrants who spoke neither English nor French. They had come from far away, and longed to return to their homelands. Sometimes they sang sad songs. Shimmer started as their story. My grandmother's story, my parents' story and mine got mixed up with theirs along the way" (Henricks in the Vidéographe online catalogue).

Shimmer opens with a striking image, the artist with his ear against a drinking glass, which is pressed to the wall; he is listening to noises on the other side. And in voice-over, "All I know is this. I have to tell you something. And you have to listen. You listen and I don't know why. But I want to tell you and you want to listen" (www.nelsonhenricks.com)

It's all about secrets, "Visions from inside my bones" (www.nelsonhenricks.com). He recounts his grandmother's words, her tracing of family history. Then he says, "But you can't change it enough to make it home, and you never will. You will never be more than a tourist here. And you feel like a hypocrite: missing a place you know you hate. You hate it more than any other place in the world. You are just in love with the idea of missing it. You never want to go back home" (www.nelsonhenricks.com).

The images in Shimmer are beautiful, but the knowledge it shares is bleak. We see landscapes, old snapshots, the soft surface of a quilt. "My lover kisses me. We are rolling on my grandma's quilt. A thousand years pass through my face in a flash. I am the end of the line" (www.nelsonhenricks.com). Nelson Henricks has moved on, leaving the past to others yet bringing it along with him nonetheless. Shimmer is affirmation and also a farewell. The ghosts are not all in his apartment after all.

Window (fenêtre) (1997)
Distributed by Vtape.

"Over the course of one year, I periodically shot footage from the front window of my third floor apartment. This became the basic material for Window, a video about knowing. How do we come to know a situation? Through repetitions and variations, our knowledge comes from more than one unique experience. It is the sum of many things. 'The sum of all sight and sound. The sum of all motion.' Window attempts to show how a whole can be more than merely the sum of its parts" (Henricks in the Vidéographe online catalogue).

As Henricks goes on to point out, the window is one of the principle metaphors of video, easily implicating the viewer in processes of exhibitionism and fetishization. Where there is a window, there is inside and outside, the enduring dichotomy.

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