Free Lifetime Membership

by Matt Kaelin

(Click on image to view video)

Free Lifetime Membership is a video shot by New York-based artist, Matt Kaelin. Kaelin here employs a two-camera apparatus that he uses across many of his projects to record spaces inhabited by personal and collective memories, histories, and experiences.

For this piece, Kaelin stations his apparatus at the intersection of 6th and Flatbush Avenues in Brooklyn, in front of a shut down neighborhood store, Royal Video. In two screens set up side by side, we observe the passing of traffic and pedestrians and the tip of a tree peaking into the frames, as we hear faint conversations in different languages, buses stopping, and wind blowing, during a seemingly routine autumn day in the city. A large “COMING SOON” banner covers the store’s previous sign, and street parking signs in front of the store prevent us from seeing what it is that is coming soon; we can only tell that it is announced by a web address. With cameras set at two different focal lengths, Kaelin structurally poses the question of perspective: What are we looking at? What is our relation to it?

Capturing a cultural landscape in transition, Free Lifetime Membership is not (entirely, at least) the ironic memoriam for a closed video store outlived by its members that it might first appear to be, especially when the viewer has the background information that the store has in fact moved down the street. While, in part, the piece’s title invites us to consider this phrase rendered ironic by recent store closures, like the second screen of the piece, it at the same time invites a second reading. Free Lifetime Membership is also a meditative look at the ongoing life of a city, documenting the layers of signs and movements of people that constitute urban space.

-Jeff Scheible

Matt Kaelin is a photographer and installation artist based in New York. His work explores photography’s relationship to time and memory. Matt has shown work internationally in New York, Philadelphia, Argentina, and Italy. He holds a degree in psychology from Swarthmore College and is currently pursuing an MFA at Hunter College in New York.