The Fussy Eye: Four Seasons in One Room

Tucked in the dark back gallery at the group show Devouring Time is a four-panel video installation in which a friendly Englishwoman chats about gardening—more particularly, the cultivation of Hippeastrum flower bulbs, 900 of which fill her home. Her discourse is hushed to a murmur, and four monologues overlap, so it’s hard to make out exactly what she’s talking about. Growth? Death? Decay? Rebirth? You can shift your perspective around the room and walk among the screens, arrayed like a box with broken edges in the center of the gallery. There are benches, too, so you can pause a while and try to follow The Four Seasons of Veronica Read, a 2002 piece by Turkish-born artist Kutlu Ataman. Read looks different on each of the panels, and you worry if she’s ill, if this is one of those chronicle-of-disease videos. But we all look different from season to season, and Ataman filmed Read at separate intervals during spring, summer, fall, and winter. Each interview— ranging from 39 to 54 minutes—gave her a chance to say something different about her precious Hippeastrums, and she has a lot to say on the subject. Ataman says they “met because we collected the same kind of flower,” but flowers aren’t really the subject of his videos. Rather, it’s Read’s unvarying but seasonally inflected devotion that fascinates—her faith that these little kernels of life will, with enough tending and time, eventually bloom. 

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