Adelaide Fringe 2012

The Three Minute Project

0 Comments 20 March 2012

Presented by Genevieve Brandenburg
@ Mercury Cinema
FRIDAY 16 March (two shows only)

Four hours. And an interval on top of that. This thing is long. When I mentioned to my housemate that the Fringe website said The Three Minute Project would go for approximately 240 minutes, we figured there must have been an error. “If it’s really four hours long it better be fucking brilliant,” were his words. Well, director Genevieve Brandenburg eludes genius in her project, but overall it’s not an unenjoyable evening’s outing, despite the length.

The concept of The Three Minute Project is taken from Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. Warhol took potential 1960s stars and filmed them silently, in black and white, as a kind of alternate portrait. Local artist Genevieve Brandenburg first saw this series when she was in high school. After graduating in 2010, Brandenburg was exposed to a number of people who she felt were interesting, talented and creative individuals and she decided that these people were worthy of something like Warhol’s portraits. Brandenburg spoke to her audience before screening The Three Minute Project. She spoke eloquently and earnestly about the reasons she felt compelled to create this work of art and what she hoped it would reveal about the people involved as well as about the nature of human beings. It is Brandenburg’s professed belief that you can “never truly know a person because everyone is immensely deep”: she expressed a hope that her film would reveal this, along with standing as a celebration of the individuality and creativity of humans in general. It is a lofty ambition and one that is probably only partially achieved.

In order to achieve her goals, Brandenburg worked with a similar concept to Warhol’s Screen Tests. 221 people were told to sit alone in front of a camera for three minutes but were not informed of much else. There are differences to Warhol’s work – for example, Brandenburg and cameraman Sam Young work in colour and with sound. This quite drastically alters the feel of the portraits created, although not necessarily in a bad way: the feeling they create is very different and as such is seems unfair to compare the results. The Reading Room serves as the backdrop for Bradenburg’s subjects, almost every one being given a floral chair to sit in, set against a blank wall. Although filmed over several months, this chair and the blank wall remain the same with only one exception. There is also a consistent buzz of noise from another room.

Watching the reactions of subjects put in front of the camera is entertaining, for the most part. While many did the Warholian thing and were silent, staring either at or away from the camera, there were a larger number who talked. Those who did seemed to use the word ‘awkward’ a lot, which is understandable. Some attempted humour, others chose to communicate in song or through the quotes of some literary idol, some told stories and some attempted to say something deep and meaningful (that usually came off simply sounding pretentious or naive). It was interesting that those who spoke tended to fall into two categories. Firstly and more commonly, there were those who seemed to be wanting to put on a show. Sometimes this was through jokes (the guy with the whale joke and the one with hand puppets each deserve a mention) but for the most part it seemed that people were performing a kind of character. Those who did not fall into that category seemed to see the camera as a kind of confessional to vent or to reveal something of themselves. Both say a lot about what these subjects might be like as people.

The subjects Brandenburg has gathered for The Three Minute Project were meant to cover a wide variety of walks of life: workers and artists, young and old, friends and strangers were apparently involved. While there are a few exceptions (mostly older family members, by the look of things) most of those put in front of the camera appear to be between the age of sixteen and twenty-six and, although their piercings and hair colours may alter, the majority of them seem decidedly middle class. That said, it doesn’t make the subjects less fascinating. What Brandenburg has created is an interesting record of Adelaide’s young, ‘alternative’ (and I use that word very loosely) crowd: a collection of portraits of a specific time and place. The show dragged at times, but overall those four hours went much more quickly than I had expected them to.

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