In Ictu Oculi
Single channel video (HDV, 16:9, colour, sound)
From its title (meaning "in the blink of an eye") onwards, Greta Alfaroâ€™s In Ictu Oculi is concerned with the viewerâ€™s experience of time: the eye is yours. The workâ€™s title, which alludes to the brevity of human existence, is shared with a number of vanitas paintings from the seventeenth century, and, like them, Alfaroâ€™s video treats the stuff that surrounds us as coded references to our own demise. A dinner table, laden with plates of food and wine bottles, its chairs waiting to be occupied, stands in a scrubby, semi-mountainous landscape, a breeze flickering its tablecloth. The tableâ€™s placement, in the centre of the frame (the shot is still), makes unmistakeable allusion to painted conventions â€“ the Last Supper, the Supper at Emmaus. And yet the occupants, when they arrive, transform the tableâ€™s Biblical and epicurean suggestions into something nightmarish and deathly. The stilled moment of the painted meal becomes subject to cinematic time: movement is change. Vultures descend, from nowhere, their bulk and scrabble bringing instability to the implied order of the scene. Yet the mealâ€™s duration, and its strange quietness (aside from the flapping of wings and chink of claw on plate) lend it a human quality: this might be the soundtrack to a medieval banquet. The birds here, like Hitchcockâ€™s, act out repressed human desires (to gorge oneself): theyâ€™re us, with the mask off.
Text by Ben Street