Digital video displayed as single-channel DVD projection;
Collection: Australian Centre for the Moving Image
Courtesy: the artist
In the early 1990s, at a stage when he was already one of the most productive and influential media artists in Canada, Reinke declared that he had just set himself the task of making 100 new video artworks before the end of the century. The project would be a test of his intelligence, his diligence and his nonchalance.
Reinke is so skilled and at ease with the video medium that he seems to have no fear or hesitation addressing just about any topic that human beings might get tangled in, from sex and evermore bizarre rituals of attraction and betrayal through to some of the most frivolous but poignant obsessions and self-delusions that people indulge in to keep despair or boredom at bay.
Needless to say, Reinke completed the Big 100 in ample time, to the extent that dozens of other works turned up as well. How Photographs Are Stored in the Brain is from this bonus category. Viewers almost expect the titles to appear with the soundtrack booming, 'Wait, there's more!' After all, the title of the work blithely promises conclusive information, like one of the personal hygiene or civic educational videos that Reinke often lampoons. Instead of strutty declamation or triumphant revelation, however, he offers a delicate, fragmented set of glimpses into enigmatic scenes, gestures and talismans which all evoke the yearning and fallibility that are so often twinned in any process of personal remembrance.
In a canny description, Reinke has explained that he wants to offer his viewers 'a tour of memory by torchlight'. They see vignetted glimmers, they hear grabs of axioms and song lyrics. For example, Paul Robeson sings about vulnerability: 'I'm like a ship without a sail.' Meanwhile the crackles, pops and stains of archival decay throw an amnesiac slurry over most of the material that is being fuzzily recalled.
By the time the viewers realise a loop is circulating every five minutes or so, they understand that Reinke will give them no straightforward information about the operations of memory. Instead, he is offering a wash of feelings, an intensified evocation of the tip-of-tongue and edge-of-frame sensations that teem in everyone's psyche. Before too long the audience understands that there is compassion rather than frustration in this beguiling work: by psychic torchlight they feel a lovely consolation as they sense so much fragile beauty flitting within the frail faculties of recall. In their fallibility, Reinke suggests, they find some of the humble, human qualities that grant them dignity.