"An alternative look at abstract art."
The First Exhibition is an experimental short film by Jonathan Djob Nkondo about the experience a woman goes through while contemplating a work of art at a museum. The film plays with essential elements from filmmaking: representation, framing and staging.
The abstract artwork on display functions as object, as stage and as screen (or frame). It also shifts and metamorphoses while the woman character interacts with it. The First Exhibition presents an internal conflict transposed into a conflict with the environment, changing levels of subjectivity in narration and a focus art and representation. The film is staged inside a painting and in an art gallery (urban location).
A stylized, minimalist aesthetic is employed, with saturated colors and abundant use of reframing. Most of the screen is left blank until the short is close to ending.
Visual rhythm increases as tension rises and is handled through editing and motion within (and sometimes outside) the frame. Timing is well handled, as is the creation of conflict. Sound design is also worth mentioning as it greatly helps in raising tension.
What makes The First Exhibition work so well? Exceptionally creative use of aesthetic and staging, fun portrait of the act of contemplating works of art, effective use of changing narrative subjectivity, plenty of surprises in a completely unpredictable narrative, great use of experimental film elements while still hooking viewers’ attention with strong conflict. One of those shorts that rewards multiple viewings.