"June 8 1968"

"June 8 1968"


The Chronicles of Disappearance is an exhibit on display at Montreal's DHC gallery from January 19- May 13 2012.  Comprised of five international artists, Omer Fast, Teresa Margolles, Philippe Parenno, Taryn Simon and Jose Toirac, the exhibit introduces works of varying mediums that collectively discuss and explore notions of death, loss and absence. 

Philippe Parenno's video June 8, 2021 (2009) is of particular interest for review.  Recorded on 70mm and digitally projected on a very large screen, the 7 minute film powerfully consumes the audience through the size of the projection and usage of sound and movement. The rich-coloured film commences with a forceful drumbeat matching the visual movement of a train traveling forward on a railway.  As the train travels through fields, forests and towns, its passing is acknowledged by many people dressed in 1940's attire, who stand and watch the locomotive in silence.  Scenes of people watching the train are chaptered by brief scenes of stillness in the green forest and a boat in the water with a single passenger, a breeze and wind being the only disruptions of this peace.

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The story and inspiration of the film was not presented or discussed until after the initial viewing.  This method naturally enhanced the interpretation and perception of the video.  Parreno's film creates an overwhelming sense of loneliness and tranquility because of the disconnection between the subjects on screen and the camera lens.  Through the absence of dialogue and constant motion, the viewer is made to feel like a spirit passing through the surroundings on screen and only able to connect with the rhythmic drumming and rustling leaves in the wind.  The perspective of the lens is also notably above the heads of people in which a sense of freedom and peace is instilled into the viewer's perception.

June 8 1968 is symbolic of Senator Robert F. Kennedy's assassination and the transportation of his corpse from Washington (where he was shot) to New York City (his family home).  The video recreates the journey that Kennedy's corpse would have taken, and furthermore, expressed the emotions and effects of the nation's loss.

Senator Kennedy was amidst his campaign for Presidency when he was assassinated. He was incredibly loved by the American public and was the front-running candidate.  His platform was successful and unique because of his advocacy for human rights and equality, bridging the segregation that was such a prominent part of American society at this time.

Parrenno's video artfully recreates the cross-country return of Kennedy's corpse and what the experience would have been like.  The dominating size of the production is an imperative part of its consumption as it demands the viewer's full attention and an inevitable response - the magnitude of the production does not allow one to be distracted.  The silence and stillness of the people watching the train pass by is eerie and creates a sense of isolation.

Movement is a very prominent theme in June 8 1968.  Despite the subjects on screen's stillness, the camera is constantly moving forward.  Parreno takes the inspiration of portraying what the passengers on the train would have witness and develops it further, fabricating a sense of freedom and spirituality that may be related to almost ghost-like. 

After death, the world continues to rotate and lives continue to be lived.  Parreno alters this notion through placing the dead (Kennedy's corpse) in motion on the train and having the rest of the bustling world stop for a moment and watch it go past.  It is ironic how in this video, the corpse is the thing in motion and the alive world around it is the one that has stopped.

In cohesion with the rhythmic drumming (representing that of a heartbeat and rhythmic movement of a train), the wind in the trees and rippling water around the boat articulate the spirit of life, surrounding the people who remain motionless.

This piece of work explores the isolation and tranquility followed by loss.  Death is an inevitable part of human life.  Suffering loss and the process of mourning is a process involving sadness, loneliness and re-evaluation.  It is a time filled with quiet, tranquility and reflection of life.  Though great loss is a very sad time, it is also such a beautiful time as it reminds each of us how important life is.  Furthermore, how important it is to have fun and truly value our relationships and daily surroundings.    

Perreno's video explores the historical emotions of those affected by Kennedy's assassination.  Upon further examination, Parrreno's work portrays mourning and loss in a very intimate way.  Be sure to go see what you think at the DHC gallery - the exhibit is open until May 13, 2012.


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