Of all the installations at the Haggerty Museum, Mircea Cantor’s Deeparture is certainly my favorite. The piece involves shots of a wolf and deer in a plain, white room. The linearity of such a piece should seem obvious; the wolf acts as predator and the deer as prey, but this is not the case. The animals seem to try hard to ignore one another and both seem to become fatigued by it. Deeparture played on my expectations. It made me thoughtful and uneasy. The explanation for the way I felt resides entirely within me because the silence of the piece gave me nothing to work with. By which, I mean, that the silence allowed for no emotions to be projected aurally.
Being the sensitive person that I am, I was initially nervous for the deer when I saw it standing in same room as the wolf. It would be within the nature of the wolf to attack the deer, but it never did. Tension never mounts through devices of the film because nothing ever really changes. The animals walk around, never making any sound, never interacting. Yet, I felt myself becoming tenser as I watched. The panting of the wolf, the fleet sounds of his footsteps, and any distressful sound made by the deer are muted. These would all help add tension, but they just aren’t there. I suppose my tension resides in my expectations for the work and in my expectations about nature. The silence allows me to project my own feelings and anxieties onto the scene because it presents me with none. After a few minutes of viewing, my anxiety peaks and I come to realize that my expectations are not going to play out. The wolf is shot lying down, panting, next to the profile of the deer. Both creatures are not in their natural environment. The white box affects the nature of their relationship. Perhaps their drives are not as inherent in them as they are dependent on their surroundings.
This piece differs greatly from Christian Marclay’s Telephones (separate post) because it depends on silence and careful watching, while Marclay’s work depends on the aural signifiers of the film collage. Telephones is entirely about sound and its association with the collage of films that make up the piece. We react to the sounds of the films and the way they change the meaning of what we’re watching. In Deeparture, silence allows us to make meaning of what is going on in the film.