Who: Volker Gerling
Where: Union Cinema at RCC Fringe, University of Adelaide
When: 12th – 17th March
My takeaway during, and after seeing Portraits in Motion: Volker Gerling sure has an amazing life. Gerling takes what started as a fleeting art-school impulse to create flipbooks and has over twenty years created a living document to his travels and memories. His ability to tell a great story, and his ability to get himself into encounters that yield great stories, carries this intimate, simple show.
Gerling presents to the audience a series of flipbook portraits, captured at a rate of three frames a second, for twelve seconds on an old film camera. It’s in those extra unexpected seconds, Gerling demonstrates, that the subject is caught unaware and reveals unguarded aspects of their personhood. The audience is invited to take in the small details over repeated viewings of each portrait, and it worked on many levels – the GIF-like treatment highlighted background details, made stillness a rare, covetable quality and repeatedly managed to make the most subtle of facial expressions resonate with what little biographical snippets the audience was given to go with each portrait. Gerling narrates each with a meter that is both methodical and wandering, reinforced by the understated production of the show and the occasional odd detail that revealed how the mind of this ‘strange man’ works.
Adding to the magic is knowing that Gerling collected these portraits while touring Germany on foot! I couldn’t imagine setting out on a more tenuous premise, but it was a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. In a way Gerling was ahead of his time, pre-empting the GIF as an artform, combining it with Humans of New York through the wonder of slow travel.