Landscape of labor: Galle walks to work

Still from A. Jacob Galle's "untitled [spring fever/pilgrimage]."
Still from A. Jacob Galle's "untitled [spring fever/pilgrimage]."

By the time you read this, the weather may have cooled off. But as I write, the mercury is steadily climbing through the 90s, and mugginess is oppressing the ââ?¬Ë?ville. Here’s a suggestion if the sweat is still trickling down behind your knees: Stop into The Niche at the Fine Arts Library and drink in A. Jacob Galle’s video, “untitled [spring fever/pilgrimage].”

Immersing yourself in the briskness of a spring day in Maine, where snow covers the ground beneath a cloudless blue sky, is a side benefit of Galle’s work, which is, in fact, about work. A performance artist cum farmer, Galle writes at his website, “I investigate the idea of respect toward and within manual work, often in the natural environment as pioneers and frontiersman might have done.”

Galle literally makes work for himself in “untitled [spring fever/pilgrimage].” A no-frills video production shot with stationary cameras, the piece begins with a young man filling a modern-day front-loading washer with his laundry. Once the cycle has ended, he ignores the nearby dryer and instead puts his wet clothes in a backpack to set off on a trek that leads to a mountaintop with a heart-stopping vista across an expanse of snowy peaks. Here he strings a clothesline between boulders, pinning up his wet clothes to flap in the wind.

Galle’s 21-minute narrative is straightforward, but subtle details keep it engaging. The second shot of the film involves a split frame with the washer on the left, and the young man preparing rope by winding it around his body on the right. Behind him, a sliding glass door reveals the snowy world beyond. The sound of the man’s rhythmic human labor echoes the familiar mechanical noise of the washing machine.

The piece then shifts outside, and as the trek progresses through lengthy frames shot from various angles, the man becomes increasingly dwarfed by the landscape. In Galle’s first frame, the interior space is so cramped, the viewer sees the man only from chest to thigh, but prior to reaching the mountaintop destination, Galle positions the camera so our laboring launderer becomes an antlike speck moving through the landscape.

Galle also uses ambient sound effectively, contrasting the singsong electronic beeps of the washing machine with the relentless wind whipping the mountaintop clothesline. And on a sultry summer day in Charlottesville, nothing is more refreshing than Galle’s labored steps crunching through the snow.

A. Jacob Galle’s single channel video, “untitled [spring fever/pilgrimage]” is on view through August 31 at The Niche at the Fine Arts Library. (Please note the library is closed on weekends during August.) Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library, Bayly Dr. (across from the Architecture School). For more information, visit