Review: In Four Years (adjectives and adverbs)

Originally posted at Wayward.

In Four Years (adjectives and adverbs) by Cam Matamoros

(every school-day for 3 weeks i got up and made a 3 minute recording of where i thought i would be in 4 years when i finish my degree. an attempt to create routine, an anchor/reference point for the present and stability and hope for the future. then i edited out everything that wasn’t an adjective or an adverb)


This is a piece I wanted to program for a conference screening in New York this summer. The conference is about documentary film, mostly. My proposal wasn’t accepted and maybe that’s because I wasn’t able to clearly articulate the way video art relates to the documentary form. So this is my second attempt to demonstrate these connections, which I think will become even more topical as people begin to relate the content of stories to the way video should be made available, shown, and kept alive.

I write about this video by Cam Matamoros because it’s a video I saw a long time ago and one that has stayed with me since. This affective quality and its connection to memory (mine, the video’s, and the narrative’s) are simultaneously about formal choices and process, and the performance of process itself. This is what Matamoros executes perfectly without trying (and without trying to achieve any particular outcome, it seems).

Ritualistically, Matamoros testifies to the camera, beginning with “in four years” followed by an intimate but mantra-like listing of potential future incarnations and possibilities. Facing if not confronting the camera with an unrehearsed vent forward–the authenticity may have proven to be increasingly difficult to sustain over the course of the three weeks the piece was shot, as the ritual itself settles into a pattern of confessions that are expected and, once assembled, constitute a conversation between then present but now past selves. Silences, yawns, hesitation and contemplation are key in marking the passage of time, adding to the lighting and outfits that suggest perpetual change.

My take on Matamoros’ video is that it is essentially about documenting anticipation, but always falling back into the moment of being recorded. The very process of imagining the future by recording one’s current ideas about the future makes more of a statement about present fears and hopes than it says about the potential for what might be or could be. And I think I get why Matamoros would “edit out” everything but adjectives and adverbs – these are the words that give meaning: they specify, qualify, and limit our judgements on things. Nothing else is needed.

If I love this video it’s because it’s incredibly smart and gentle.

Mél Hogan, March 31, 2011