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By David Finkelstein | May 17, 2013

This rich, interesting short by Van McElwee begins with a woman crossing the screen towards us on a diagonal path. We see many variations of this motif. Each time she reaches the center, she must decide whether to keep going straight, or to turn onto a perpendicular path to the right or the left, or perhaps to return back where she started. (This relationship with space is familiar to anyone who lives in a city laid out on a grid.)

McElwee gradually builds the image up by superimposing many, many, many additional copies of her various choices. The image becomes increasingly abstract, and increasingly static, as copies of her image accumulate mostly in the “decision spot” of the center, radiating outwards towards the four corners. It ends with a completely static, abstract form.

This simple idea, beautifully realized, suggests all kinds of interesting associations. In our choice-based society, we’ re asked to make innumerable small choices all day long, and businesses look at these choices as they aggregate in the millions. Being a political-minded person, the image got me thinking of how all of our daily “choices” (Coke or Pepsi?) always, in the aggregate, lead in the direction of enriching the big corporations and banks, and lead away from enriching local communities. Multiple individual choices add up to a fixed, static pattern. I’m sure that this highly suggestive imagery would yield many other, totally different associations as well. McElwee has abstracted the experience of choice into a kind of evocative structuralist visual poetry, equally stimulating to the eye and to the mind.

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