Lana Z Caplan
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The Loveliest Mountain of China, 2012-2014
3-Channel Video Installation, 48 minutes total running time
3 flat-screen vertically wall-mounted monitors
color HD video, 16:9, with sound
The Loveliest Mountain of China is a 3-channel video installation that lays bare the bones of the participatory documentary medium, deconstructing narrative film production modalities, and presenting them across a wall space on three screens simultaneously. Comprised of one screen of interviews, one of fixed camera landscape views, and one of "B-roll" of tourists posing in front of the mountain, a self-reflexive epi-narrative unfolds between the screens with an awareness of the illusion of ethnographic representation, gaps in translation, and the complexities of the politics of landscape. Ecological change is approached through the voices and perspectives of people who inhabit and visit — the locals and the tourists — the picturesque landscape of Huangshan (Yellow Mountain).
Future teller, 2014
30 seconds, 360 degrees, 80 feet tall, 7 screens
Video Sculpture, Public Art Commission
Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, Boston, MA
Future Teller is a 30-second, 360-degree (3D) lyrical narrative in which a fortune telling grandmother is asked for her predictions. As a premonition enters her head, a world of mystical colors and visions opens up, taking us floating into space to view earth from afar, as it heats up and explodes. The 1930's fortune telling machine used in the footage reminded me of the naysayers of climate change, who have likened climate scientists and their predictions to fortune tellers. While the tone is fantastical and somewhat humorous, this piece also gives a voice to the feeling of helplessness of the average citizen facing the global enormity of the causes of climate change. The piece was presented on the "Art on the Marquee" sculpture in front of the Boston Convention Center. It was viewed by more than 100,000 pedestrians and motorists daily and is visible for half a mile in many directions.
Subway sleepers, 2014
8x10", tintypes, edition of 3
Subway Sleepers uses the form of the historic process of tintypes to transform digital images of contemporary people sleeping on the subway of Beijing into reminiscences of death portraits and reflect on the effects of the pace of modern life.
Sites of public execution, 2001-present
20" x 21" sepia-toned silver prints in French mats
Since 2001, I have been researching, photographing and making short films about sites that had been used for public executions at different times in history. When I began this ongoing project, people were petitioning for Timothy McVeigh's execution to be televised, a modern form of a public arena. The desire to watch or show people being killed, as perceived justice or as a political act, is still alive in America and other parts of the world such as the Middle East (the most recent form coming in ghastly videotaped beheadings broadcast on Youtube and social media sites).
What does a society choose to show of its history in public space? Are shifting values visible in the function of space? Can images reflect the power of society to impact social change?
I found some sites that were quite venerated as places for public execution, such as St. Peter's Square in Rome or the field in Salem, MA (now named Gallows Hill Park) where accused witches were hung. Some places are now well known for other reasons, such as the Louvre, in front of which the guillotine was installed during the French Revolution. The different ways in which the history of these places has been dealt with (some capitalizing on the executions, others concealing the execution history with other events that also occurred in these places) spoke more to me about present day morality and values in each country than the abolishment or continuation of capital punishment in those countries.
The photographs in this series are sepia-toned silver prints presented in French mats. This presentation is a reference to historical photographs and cataloguing of images made for documentation purposes. Each of the mats have calligraphic titles describing the dates and types of executions that occurred on that site, rather than the name and place pictured, as is customary. By subverting the viewers' expectations in the text, they may question what they thought they knew of these places.
New images in this series include sites in the American West and Mexico. I have also begun a series of current execution sites with images captured from Google Earth in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
A book with images and stories from this series was produced in conjunction with the exhibition Watch This at Danforth Museum of Art, Framingham, MA, Fall 2007. Second edition was published in 2010.