The Gypsy Project is an installation for projected image media and sound by artist Hannah Collins. Compiled and edited from nearly fourteen hours of 35mm film footage shot by the artist and her crew in La Mina, a vast track of housing built on the outskirts of Barcelona, the material was transferred from its original film format to a digital media platform for a five-screen installation. The work expresses concern for the human condition characteristic of Collins’ earliest work in still photography, yet introduces a syntactical relationship among a set of moving images in sequence to create a portrait of contemporaneity through an investigation of technique, narrative convention, people and place.
The multiple screen structure of La Mina, The Mind captures the complexities of observation and tests representations as true by resisting the single, decisive moment of the photographers’ still image. Collins worked with the gypsies of Barcelona for over a year to construct a viable relationship between members of the community taking part in the project by influencing their depiction in film. The gypsies became the authors of their own stories, songs, and episodes in The Gypsy Project by developing a script with Collins. Once gypsy leader Manuel Fernandez opened the community of La Mina to the artist they gave much of themselves to the project.
The number of “authorial perspectives” in La Mina gives the work its tension and vitality. Multiple points of view galvanized in a single work of art counter the contentious and misunderstood history of the gypsy in Europe. Three or more perspectives legible in La Mina mediate between film documents, social situations, and the theatrical settings. The script surrenders to mishaps, to spontaneity, or to the challenges of the physical environment. The cumbersome apparatus of filmmaking, camera, lights, measurements, shouts, directions, teams of people -- “the stage of being seen”- - necessary for the production, visible to the gypsy population, yet hidden from the viewer, affects the content of the document.
Transparency conditions behavior and emphasizes the problems of film as an index of objectivity. With little knowledge of the culture of the gypsy against which their stories unfold, nor the work’s situational dynamics, the viewer figures as yet another authorial element. Propelled into the condition of wandering and territory evoked by and established in the artist’s translation of La Mina, the viewer is immersed in the depth of Collins’ subject through a cycle of three days and nights. In sharp contrast with the linear time-keeping pulse of contemporary entertainment media, which is fused lock-step with consumer culture, The Gypsy Project depicts temporality outside the regulated profit- generating pace of time. Collins represents the nomadic culture of the gypsy in sculptural relationships to space and scale with a focus on figure and gesture, the community and the individual.
Robert R. Riley
Birdland, Richard Noble, 2004