MILAN, ITALY.- Fondazione Prada presents Steve McQueen, on view through June 12, 2005. One of the best-known young contemporary artists, Steve McQueen began working in the early 1990s and soon achieved international recognition through his sophisticated use of cinematic language with direct reference to cinema verité, in particular to the avant-garde French director and documentary-maker Jean Rouch. Inspired by the improvisation techniques used in Italian Neo-Realism, Rouch broke with traditional editing by abolishing post-production work and making evident the potential within the free use of the camera. He considered it was possible to provide the viewer with direct experience of the perception of reality, and taking this procedure as a starting point, McQueen developed a narrative technique that inevitably led him away from traditional cinema and to adopt a freer approach based on randomness and uncertainty. In this context the artist adopted several techniques that have become typical of his way of working: the use of a handheld camera, the blurring of the boundaries between imagination and reality, and between the space occupied by the viewer and that of the film, and, above all, by the breaking up of the films continuity by altering the narrative sequence. The viewer therefore has to provide his own meaning and finds himself faced by a language that gives few clues but which is based on complex dynamics in which key elements interact, such as the clarity of the exposure, the pictorial density and the balance of the composition.
In 1992 McQueen made his first film (Exodus) in which two characters are filmed without their knowledge as they walk through the streets of London carrying small coconut palms. In 1993 it was the turn of Bear, in which two naked black men fight, embrace, look one another in the eye and finally perform a sort of athletic pas de deux that resembles the movements of a boxer. In Just Above My Head (1996), the entire screen is filled by a white, cloudy sky on the edge of which the viewer makes out the head of the artist as he bounces along. In Deadpan a year later McQueen paid tribute to silent films by restaging one of Buster Keatons most famous gags, and in Drumroll, that won the Turner Prize in 1999, the sequence is the result of three cameras filming inside oil drums as they are rolled along the streets of New York.
By concentrating on the intensity of images and their ability to evoke the extraordinary dimension in ordinary events, McQueen arouses pathos through non-orthodox narrative associations. Episodic in structure, his procedure is not linear but it anchors our focus by following a linguistic path in which images and memories are intertwined. The aim of this device is to transform the general notion of what is real. By creating jarring meanings, the artist attempts to provoke an emotional short-circuit that will place the viewer in contact with the indefinite, the inexplicable and, above all, with the most intimate and unknown part of himself.