Monday, July 30, 2007

Streamside Day

I'm sitting on the floor in a polygonal enclosure waiting for the film to start. The walls outside are coated with iridescent emerald foil. As the lights go out, we sink into the half-light of dawn. In a long crane shot, cleared lands and tree carcasses streams past the camera. The sound of cicadas intensifies into a dense cascade of audio. Under the forest canopy, woodland animals venture into the frame: a rabbit, an owl, deer and a racoon. The deer drinks from a stream, oblivious to the camera. Cut from the woodland to the suburbs and a Bambi look-alike traipses down an urban driveway to enter a new, empty residence. Its hooves click on the kitchen linoleum. Outside on the street, a group of kids play house in cardboard boxes. We speed out of the city down the highway into the valley. The journey is inter-cut with brief, fragmented scenes: twin children crouch in a vast sea of grass, a swarm of bees engulfs the base of an enormous tree. “That’s our house right there”, says one girl, pointing to a miniature architectural model on a table in an empty room.

The parade begins slowly. A fire-fighter truck, cars and buses roll slowly into town, followed by a procession of revellers dressed in makeshift costumes and cardboard boxes. “Welcome to Streamside Day”, the poster reads. Children in animal masks wander the streets like zombies. The soundtrack is saccharine, like a twisted ice-cream van jingle. The cops watch from the sidelines, their faces lit by the flashing lights of emergency services. All dialogue is muffled. On a stage in front of an almost empty town square, the mayor begins her speech: “A great community spirit is starting”, she announces, speaking into the void, her audience distracted by the commencing feast. Guests navigate through tables laden with “traditional” settler’s fare, heaping their paper plates with food. As the sky darkens, a fake moon rises above the houses like a giant balloon. A man takes to the stage with an acoustic guitar. In front of a few, idle spectators, he performs the “Streamside theme song: "a flower blossom, raising through the falling leaves, the day’s just begun, light through the trees, this is the same light that falls in dreams. It’s a streamside Celebration." The tune is at once unbearably kitsch and strangely sincere, like a Julee Cruise song in a David Lynch movie. As the day comes to a close and the town is left empty, the camera scans streets strewn with discarded boxes and debris. Two moons – the full moon and the inflatable balloon moon – hang lightly in the sky. Someone flicks a switch. The moon flickers out and is pulled back down to earth. The walls begin to move again.

(Notes on Pierre Huyghe's installation Streamside Day Follies at Dia: Chelsea, New York, October 31, 2003 to January 11, 2004.)

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