Not every city can boast of an art exhibit with what is perhaps the longest photograph in the state of Texas, but Texarkana can.
The Archfern "Liquid Soul" exhibit open now at the Regional Arts Center is exactly that: a photograph stretching 118 feet in length and 54 inches high, winding its way along the walls of the secured gallery rooms, depicting, as it goes along, an award-winning short movie of the same name.
The brainchild of De Kalb, Texas's Allen Phillips, Archfern works across three different mediums: film, furniture and architecture. Here at the RAC, their exhibit is based on a short film Phillips created with friend and fellow Texarkanian Trampas Smith.
"Liquid Soul" was an official selection at Fantastic Fest and has been shown elsewhere, too, such as the Tulsa American Film Festival and Fayetteville Film Fest, winning kudos from the Independent Shorts Awards as Best Experimental Short and Best Visual FX. All of these accolades have arrived for a movie that cost them about $800 to $1,000 to make.
Essentially, the photograph conveys the film's narrative, turning the process inside out, as Phillips explains it. Instead of watching a short film on a screen, it is seen as the viewer walks along the photograph from one point to the next.
An opening reception for the exhibit will be held Saturday night, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., followed by an after-party at Pecan Point Gastropub & Brewery.
So how big is it? "Big, it weighs 422 pounds," Phillips said about the one continuous print. You might also call it a collage. The size makes it a challenge to install.
The movie itself was years in the making. Both Phillips and Smith work full-time and have other projects. "We just did it when we could," Phillips said. Eventually, they got the idea for an exhibit, based on the idea that Americans spend five-and-a-half hours a day looking at a screen of some sort. The exhibit flips that concept.
"We've inverted that, and what we do is we move the viewer around the story, as opposed to moving the story for the viewer. You're still watching the film. You're coming here to watch a film; you're just experiencing it in a different way," Phillips said. "It's such a simple thing."
The idea is that attendees will fully understand the movie by experiencing the one long photograph in this way.
"They're experiencing time through a photograph, which most photographs are one piece of time, a moment in time. This is a length of time. It's a fourth-dimensional photograph. That's one way to look at it," Phillips said, comparing it to flipping through the pages of a book.
The short, 13-minute movie's plot explores what happens when a tanker truck driver falls in love with a woman. He's delivering fuel, and she breaks his heart. Out of desperation, said Phillips, the truck driver starts huffing the gasoline that he is delivering. From there, his mind spins out of control.
Becky Black, visual arts and community programs coordinator for the Texarkana Regional Arts and Humanities Council, says they're billing it as the longest photograph in Texas, although there is a negative that they know of, not a full print, that is a few feet longer.
"He and I Googled our little fingers off trying to make sure we weren't lying. At this point, we have not found another photograph as long in Texas," Black said.
The photograph will curve along the walls, sitting about two feet high off the floor, traversing three rooms as it wraps its way around the space. Look for bits of script and stills from the movie to be part of the show.
"We're also going to have the truck cab that's in the movie. An actual cab of the truck is going to be in here," Black said. It is split in two, so it can fit through the doorways.
"We think that's going to be a real big draw," Black said about this interactive aspect of the exhibit, describing the exhibit this way: "It's a huge photograph that Allen has designed himself with text in the photograph, with stills in the film. And so when you're looking at it you do have to walk the entire length to see half the narrative and then you have to walk back the other way to get the full narrative he's put into this one photograph."
Black says this exhibit puts TRAHC on par with what's happening in the contemporary art world as both a novelty exhibit and a unique fine art exhibit. It runs through Jan. 12.
"People have plenty of time to come experience this," Black said.
(Admission is free. The Regional Arts Center is located at 321 W. 4th St. in Texarkana, Texas. RAC hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. More info: TRAHC.org or 903-792-8681.)