DC at Night

DC at Night

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Steve McQueen: Before He Won His Oscar

If you want to see cinematic work made by Oscar award-winning director Steve McQueen before his best picture movie 12 Years a Slave," you need to head to the Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall.

There you can view McQueen's 4:35-minute, silent, black and white "Deadpan," which is included in the exhibition Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950.

The short, filmed in 1997, is a re-staging of Buster Keaton's 1928 scene in "Steamboat Bill Jr."

In the film, McQueen stands motionless as the side of a house falls on him. McQueen escapes injury because the house falls in such a way that he is framed through a glass-less window.

In the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, McQueen explains that his film has "a lot to do with being framed, about frames, window frames and the frames of houses."

It also represents "being framed within the broader, wider society and the individual within the frame standing up. So you can escape ... even when you're out, you're in," he added.

Critics have said the endless repetition of the building's collapse suggests an obsessive need to re-stage a traumatic event.

Damage Control, which is on display until May 26, explores the ways in which artists have used destruction as a central element of art to comment on cultural and social issues of the post-nuclear age.

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