Jim Denevan walks dragging a rake on a smooth beach. He makes perfect circles over and over in uncannily perfect geometric patterns that can only be captured aerially by photo or video. I don’t see him using a protractor. Then the surf comes in and wipes it all away.
While viewing “Man in the Field,” I got to wondering if the art process could be viewed as a universal venue for self-therapy. And then I got to wondering about all the possible art processes/forms there might be. If cooking is considered an art form then couldn’t teaching, nursing, employee management, surgery and even politics also be? In their process these are practices with a potential for something exquisite. And when it reaches exquisite then doesn’t it transcend into art?
And, like Jim Denevan’s masterpieces, they are also transitory. But additionally, in Denevan’s case, parallel to his activity creating land art, Denevan also cooks dinners and serves them to a series of annexed tables with white tablecloths adjacent to his temporary artistic creations. Sometimes waves wash over the tables and guests as both sand patterns and the food once served are erased. Sometimes it rains.
Fascinating and personal
Denevan appears to be a loner who grew up in a large dysfunctional family. His father died of a brain tumor when he was 5 and three of his schizophrenic brothers were committed to institutions. His mother abandoned the family when he was 15 and was later committed to the same institution where his brothers are housed. He grew up with instability, terror, loneliness, confusion and chaos.
Exercises in environmental control
“Man in the Field” shows a man in chronic recovery. Circle after circle, magical perfect geometric patterns, including a gigantic Fibonacci Curve, in sand, amidst crops, across fields, in ice, and dirt, Denevan controls his environment over and over and then lets it all go, whether by wind, rain, or tide.
Artistic and human impermanence
Like the meal that is so perfectly prepared, using ingredients from the land where the tables are set and the kitchen is erected, his art disappears as it is digested. Guests revel in a communal experience in being at the site of the harvest and kitchen and then they disperse.
“Man in the Field” is a spellbinding film for your mind. However, it is also a fabulous advertisement for meals out in the field that cost about $300/plate. If you would like to spend a night in a tent at the site and have pastries the next day, just add $1,000.
Director: Patrick Trefz
Producers: Jess Carfield, Andreas Jaritz, Christie Jarvis and Patrick Trefz
Editor: Jess Carfield
Featuring: Jim Denevan, Marcus Samuelsson, David Kinch, Doniga Markegard, Peter Mel, Bill Denevan, Tish Denevan and others
Released: Sept. 24, 2021
Official Website: https://outstandinginthefield.com/documentary/
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