Completed in 1914 at the end of an insane construction period, the Panama Canal cost countless black workers from the West Indies their lives. With no explicit reminder of this, Kevin Jerome Everson’s new film – which owes its title to the huge artificial lake forming the major part of the canal – travels on it at a speed that the successive locks impose on navigation. As an unspoken need of the history of the dead buried under the exaltation of progress, this voyage essentially accompanies the spectator back to the wellspring of cinema, and remains true to filmmaker’s prolific and increasingly clear-cut gesture. Crystalised in the vibrant grain of the 16mm film (six 10-minute black and white reels that almost perfectly coincide with the stages of the journey) and bewitchingly rocked between dark and light, the spectacle of the crossing is truly a treatise on optics. At several points, the spectators are swallowed up by shadows (leaving only the ear to grasp the documentary basis of the journey), then immediately returned to the light, passing through the locks of the lake as if through shutters, through eyelids, that each time enable them to measure the powerfulness of their gaze.
Kevin Jerome Everson (b.1965, Mansfield, Ohio). MFA Ohio University; BFA University of Akron. Professor of Art at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Everson was awarded the 2020 Berlin Prize, the 2019 Heinz Award in Art and Humanities, and the 2012 Alpert Award for Film/Video. Everson’s art practice covers sculpture, street photography, and his award-winning films, including 11 features and over 180 short-form works, have exhibited internationally. His films have been the subject of mid-career retrospectives at Cinematek Brussels/Courtisane, Cinema du réel, Glasgow Short Film Festival, Harvard Film Archive, Tate Modern, Modern and Contemporary Art Museum (Seoul), Visions du Reel, The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY and Centre Pompidou and featured at the 2008, 2012 and 2017 Whitney Biennial, the 2013 Sharjah Biennial and the 2018 Carnegie International.
© Sandy Williams