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Art review: Sturtevant's 'Finite Infinite' packs a lot in mere seconds

November 01, 2013|By David Pagel
  • Sturtevant's "Finite Infinite" is a nine-second video installation.
Sturtevant's "Finite Infinite" is a nine-second video… (Courtesy of the artist and…)

Not many artists can pull off an exhibition with only one work, especially when that work consists of a snippet of film that is nine seconds long.

But Sturtevant’s brilliant little movie, at 356 S. Mission Road in Los Angeles, defies expectations. First of all, it’s projected so that it covers every square inch of a wall 15 feet tall and 100 feet long.

Its story is simple: a black dog runs, from left to right, across a field. And its soundtrack is primal: a deep, rumbling fusion of a drum roll, heartbeat and locomotive, rhythmically building in intensity, endlessly.

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If you’re a sports fan with a taste for slow-motion replays or a movie lover who replays favorite scenes frame by frame, you may be frustrated by Sturtevant’s movie. The dog runs so swiftly that you have to watch “Finite Infinite,” again and again. There’s no pause button or slow-motion replay, so you have to sharpen your skills and exercise your senses.

When you do so, you notice that the dog’s progress is unsteady: It does not accelerate at a constant rate and even appears, at five or six moments, to lose ground. It is as if Sturtevant has packed the drama of a horse race into her work, calling to mind the spectacle of horses jockeying for position.

To watch closely is to see that unsteady movement is a result of the camera as it zooms in, incrementally, for a closer shot. Matching the rate of the zoom to that of the dog is a seat-of-the-pants operation. Its inconsistencies give “Finite Infinite” its poignancy, expansiveness and majesty.

At a time of diminished attention spans, it’s exciting — and very satisfying — to see what Sturtevant has done with nine seconds. A sort of Muybridge for the digital age, she makes us pay attention to our animal selves, which may be our best features.

The longer you watch, the more fascinating everything becomes. Time does not stand still so much as every second seems to be part of something bigger. The chase is everything.

356 S. Mission Road, (323) 609-3162, through Dec. 8. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.


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