Michael Nyman’s new creation is a film work for Liverpool Biennial 2014 entitled Aztecs in Liverpool. The two-screen video installation includes footage collected by Nyman over the past twenty years in his adopted home, Mexico. The title refers to one of the Aztec codices, the Codex Fejérváry-Mayer, which is where the title of this work derives from. The Codex, states the exhibition text, is an example of a tonalamatl – books of days and destinies, which have been ‘arranged in accordance with the 260-day Aztec astrological count’, introducing life, time and motion into the world.
Aztecs in Liverpool (60’) consists of 7 individual films entitled Piano Moves, Slow Birth Slow Death, Fountains of Desire, Under The Shadow Of The Tortilla, Mexico City Walkers, From The Wedding To The Ex Voto, and The Photographer And The Photographer.
As I enter the darkened gallery space, I see children playing in the fountain under The Monument to the Revolution, located in Republic Square, which explains the title: Fountains Of Desire. As I watch, the powerful bass of the music pervades throughout the room, instantly reminding me of my recent visit to Mexico City. Hums of slightly varying tones reverberate gently as the moving imagery on screen dances in slow motion, presenting the ‘delighted’ and ‘unexpected’ (Nyman, 2014) discovery of the book (Codex Fejérváry-Mayer) at the World Museum in 2013.
The busy Mexican streets are presented at a stand-still, due to the way the camera is positioned, enabling only one viewing aspect as the camera is sternly focussed on a single point. Accompanied by various sounds drowning and returning in waves, field recordings dominate the soundtrack. Noises that do not belong within the visual aspect of the piece contribute beautifully to the film externally, as a structured story evolves creating a delightful experience.
Aztecs in Liverpool will be on display at the Walker Art Gallery until 26 October, 2014.
This article was originally written for Art in Liverpool. Click HERE to read more