Portray Pedigree: Amie Siegel at Thomas Dane Gallery

Amie Siegel is understood for her slow-paced movies interrogating cultural methods of labor and worth in forensic depth, as in two movies she introduced on the South London Gallery in 2017 for her present “Strata”: Fetish (2016) tracks an annual deep-cleaning of collected objects in Sigmund Freud’s former London dwelling, now a museum, and Quarry (2015) follows the tortuous journey of marble from deep underground caverns to luxurious residences in New York. Siegel applies a equally investigative method in her new feature-length video Bloodlines. Commissioned by the Nationwide Galleries of Scotland, the place it’s now on view, and lately proven at Thomas Dane Gallery in London, the movie obliquely takes on Britain’s class system by tracing the trajectory of work by 18th-century English animal portraitist George Stubbs on mortgage from aristocratic estates round Britain to a 2019 exhibition on the public MK Gallery in southeast England.

Stubbs was famed in his day for the anatomical accuracy and liveliness of his depictions of horses and canine; members of the British higher lessons sought him out to color them and their prized pets. Lots of the canvases featured in Siegel’s movie have remained throughout the authentic patron households and function signifiers of standing, by advantage of their monetary price in addition to their content material, which emphasizes the significance of pedigree for each animals and people on this social stratum (therefore the movie’s title, Bloodlines).

Within a darkened room, a projected film shows a chandelier out of focus in front of an 18th-century painting of a wealthy couple.

Amie Siegel, Bloodlines, 2022, 4K video, colour, sound, 82 minutes. Photograph Richard Ivey/Courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery/©Amie Siegel

Touring the opulent properties the place the work reside, the digital camera glides dispassionately by means of wood-paneled rooms hung with chandeliers, pans round chambers furnished with four-poster beds, and appears down from a colonnaded marble staircase. There isn’t any commentary, however Siegel’s layered modifying and painstaking consideration to element counsel sure themes. The digital camera lingers, for instance, on two collectible figurines of Black servants astride leopards, reminding the viewer of Britain’s brutal colonial previous, which supported many aristocratic fortunes. Gilt-framed portraits in every single place testify to the house owners’ noble lineage. Interspersed amongst them are Stubbs’s depictions of home and unique animals and of the gentry at leisure on their land, taking pictures pheasants or searching foxes on horseback. These painted scenes materialize uncannily in one other sequence of Siegel’s movie that captures a modern-day hunt—ceremony of a bygone period that has, for the rich, largely retained the identical customs and apparel since Stubbs’s day.

Accompanying footage of the estates’ sweeping parklands are discipline recordings of bleating sheep, whinnying horses, and singing birds. Indoors, against this, ubiquitous gilt clocks tick and chime, underscoring the jarring collision of eras in these areas. Certainly, the arrival of the artwork handlers in shorts and sneakers, with their tattoos and latex gloves, appears to wrench these stately homes out of their centuries-old time warp into the current. The handlers’ discussions contribute a lot of the dialogue. Siegel reveals their meticulous care as they disconnect lights, take down heavy works, wrap them, field them in foam-lined crates, and carry them onto particular vehicles. In the meantime, different staff have a tendency the hearth, wind clocks, mop flooring, and vacuum to maintain these estates immaculate.

Within a darkened room, a projected film shows two art handlers carrying a square wooden crate in front of a castle-like building.

Amie Siegel, Bloodlines, 2022, 4K video, colour, sound, 82 minutes. Photograph Richard Ivey/Courtesy Thomas Dane Gallery/©Amie Siegel

The house owners are absent amid all this busyness. Standing in for them are well-groomed animals that lord over palatial properties: a somber-looking Labrador perches on a chintzy couch and a spaniel eyes the viewer from a protracted hall lined with portraits and dust-sheeted antiques. The digital camera dignifies these serving this unusual privileged world of the aristocracy, from the employees to the animals, lavishing time on them in addition to on the infinite materials wealth on view; on this method, Siegel appears implicitly to query hierarchies of worth in these grand deadening areas.

The visible shift to the Stubbs exhibition then seems like a quick second of liberation, the movie’s climax. Faraway from their elite context, having traveled from throughout Britain, the work appear to tackle a brand new life as they’re united and flaunted to a large viewers in a public gallery. However quickly they’re packed once more and returned to their mausoleum-like environments. It’s a truism that it takes an outsider’s perspective to disclose what’s hiding in plain sight. Within the strategy of monitoring the Stubbs work’ transit, Bloodlines quietly exposes the mechanics of Britain’s inequitable social system. Taking us behind the scenes in properties of extraordinary splendor, barely penetrated by Twenty first-century adjustments in sociopolitical values, Siegel reveals us how cultural wealth is inherited and bolstered: largely out of the general public view, but requiring the labor of others to keep up it.


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