The Art of Wangechi Mutu

After documenting The Contemporary Austin’s Ai Weiwei installations, we partnered with TCA again to create a video for their upcoming Wangechi Mutu exhibit. Wangechi Mutu is an acclaimed contemporary artist, working between Nairobi and New York City. Mutu’s new solo exhibition at Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center features her recent work in video, action painting, and sculpture.

We personally find Mutu’s art to be mesmerizing, so we were very excited to be asked to work on this project. The concept of the video was to profile the new work shown at TCA, and maintain a focus on the art itself. With this idea in mind, our aim was to show Mutu’s work to be both accessible and compelling, and do so in a way that captured the energy of the exhibit. Mutu’s art is powerful and memorable, so we knew if we photographed her art in the correct way, the images of her work would be sure to stick in the minds of viewers.

It was important to us that the tone of the video stayed true to the spirit of Mutu’s artistic voice. Some of the key words that came up while discussing the Mutu and her work were: deliberate, meditative, thoughtful, and intimate. Wangechi is known to choose her words very carefully, so this same spirit guided our execution of this video. Part of the strategy was to use careful framing and deliberate pacing to communicate a tone consistent with Mutu’s own approach.

Our crew shot on location at Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center. We shot footage of all of the pieces on display as part of the exhibition. In framing and choosing the right kind of camera movement for each shot, careful consideration was paid to the creating the deliberate tone that we had strategized in preproduction.

Close-ups were shot to communicate intimacy, and showcase the thoughtful details present in the works. We used slow-motion and floating camera movement to give the video a meditative quality. This camera movement was also used enliven the sculptures by showing the change in perspective as the camera moved around the three-dimensional artwork.

Interviews with museum audiences and a curator’s commentary were shot to give context to Mutu’s work. Before going into the interviews, we wanted to have an idea of how they would cut together with the images of the exhibition. Our intention was to introduce the interviewees by seeing them onscreen, but then primarily use their voices in combination with images of Mutu’s art.

An interview with Heather Pesanti, senior curator at TCA, was shot at Laguna Gloria to create the informative structure of the video. The idea was that Pesanti’s professional perspective would give the viewers a historical and curatorial context.

We also wanted to show how accessible Mutu’s work is. We scheduled interviews with everyday people in order to record personal reactions to Mutu’s work. Our goal here was to see museum visitors engaged by Mutu’s work, and show people in conversation with pieces of art.

We were very happy to work with The Contemporary Austin once again. With the help of beautiful subject matter and the TCA’s curatorial expertise, this was a very engaging project to execute. We hope that the video helps inspire you visit The Contemporary Austin to see the Mutu exhibit in person.