Art

A Video Installation Immerses You in 1970s Brooklyn

Aldo Tambellini, "H. Barnette Loans/For Rent" (1971-72) (courtesy the artist)
Aldo Tambellini, “H. Barnette Loans/For Rent” (1971-72) (courtesy the artist and Pierogi / The Boiler)

From the window of his apartment at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues, filmmaker Aldo Tambellini captured the slow changes in Brooklyn street life from 1971 to 1972. His six hours of videotape footage, all in grainy black and white, are projected onto six screens in Atlantic In Brooklyn (1971–72) at Pierogi’s The Boiler in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Aldo Tambellini’s “Atlantic In Brooklyn (1971–72)” at the Boiler (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Aldo Tambellini’s “Atlantic In Brooklyn (1971–72)” at the Boiler (photo by the author for Hyperallergic) (click to enlarge)

When the films were first shown back in 1972, at the Kitchen Video Festival on three monitors, it was within the context of their contemporary moment. Now, the Brooklyn intersection Tambellini documented is almost unrecognizable, with most of the trash cleared, the old subway exit now just a skylight, and the metal curves of Barclays Center hulking over it all. That’s not to say the Atlantic-Pacific interchange is now completely cleaned up, as it’s still a frenetic, chaotic place at most hours, but Tambellini’s Atlantic In Brooklyn now has a sense of nostalgia that wasn’t present in its initial presentation. In a short clip from one video below, uploaded by curator Joseph Ketner, a drunk man is restless on a heap of trash, people pace in wait for unseen encounters, rain falls and figures are masked beneath umbrellas, and there are unexpected moments, like a man genuflecting in the middle of the sidewalk.

In The Boiler, where the video works dominate three walls, the people are projected larger-than-life, and a soundscape surrounds the action alongside the mechanized clicking from tape to tape. It’s an immersion in these fleeting moments, that sometimes sync up, like two old men striding with canes and long coats billowing around them, but mostly they are random, like sex trade workers gathering on a corner.

According to the gallery, Tambellini, who was focused on more performance-based experiences of film in the 1960s, was fixated on filming the immediate world around him after he was stricken by a virus that scarred his corneas and blindness seemed to be a possibility. Today, Atlantic In Brooklyn is at once a portal to the past, and a timeless act of film realism.

Atlantic Avenue Metro Station, Still from video “Atlantic in Brooklyn,” 1971-72. Courtesy the artist and Pierogi / The Boiler
Atlantic Avenue Metro Station, Still from video ‘Atlantic in Brooklyn’ (1971-72) (courtesy the artist and Pierogi / The Boiler)
Aldo Tambellini’s “Atlantic In Brooklyn (1971–72)” at the Boiler (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Aldo Tambellini’s “Atlantic In Brooklyn (1971–72)” at the Boiler (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Drunk on Sidewalk, Still from video “Atlantic in Brooklyn,” 1971-72. Courtesy the artist and Pierogi / The Boiler
“Drunk on Sidewalk,” Still from video ‘Atlantic in Brooklyn’ (1971-72) (courtesy the artist and Pierogi / The Boiler)
Aldo Tambellini’s “Atlantic In Brooklyn (1971–72)” at the Boiler (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
Aldo Tambellini’s “Atlantic In Brooklyn (1971–72)” at the Boiler (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Aldo Tambellini: Atlantic In Brooklyn (1971–72) continues through October 11 at Pierogi’s The Boiler (191 North 14th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn). UPDATE: The show has been extended to October 18.

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