Traceurs: to trace, to draw, to go fast - Layla Curtis

Using heat-seeking cameras, Curtis has filmed ‘traceurs’ (Parkour practitioners), recording their unorthodox movements and alternative routes through the city landscape. Made popular through advertisements and action movies, Parkour is an urban acrobatic activity dedicated to moving from one place to another as efficiently and quickly as possible, using principally the abilities of the human body. Essentially a ‘street’ movement like graffiti art, the highly disciplined and skilled traceurs move mostly undetected through the urban environment. Like skateboarders, traceurs confront the urban fabric and through their practice are some of our most acute architectural critics, unlike graffiti, however, Parkour leaves no mark.

Layla Curtis wanted to trace the untraceable and record the tracks and routes of traceurs through a variety of locations in the City of Westminster. In response to the almost impossible challenge of recording this virtually invisible activity, Curtis used thermal imaging technology to record the heat traces of footprints and handmarks etc left on obstacles and buildings.

The resulting series of films are beautiful and grainy, a kind of temporal drawing in black and white, contrasting with the more familiar highly coloured palette of thermal imaging. The viewer is invited to watch almost still, greyish images of walls, trees, and roofs until a shock of white fills the screen for an instant as the traceurs leap between obstacles. Gradually all traces fade away and we are left once again with the grainy blank façade of the city.

Layla Curtis’s thermal films of Parkour - the flourish of human activity and the resulting trace, have their art historical precedents in Hans Namuth’s films of Jackson Pollock making an ‘action’ painting, or Yves Klein’s ‘Anthropometry’ series where the artist directed naked models to cover themselves in paint and drag each other across paper.

A screening of Julie Angel’s documentary, 'The Making of Traceurs: to trace, to draw, to go fast', will take place at the ICA on Sat 21 and Thu 26 Jun 2 - 3.30pm.
Click here to view the trailer for Julie Angel's documentary
Traceurs: to trace, to draw, to go fast - Layla Curtis

Event Title: Traceurs: to trace, to draw, to go fast - Layla Curtis
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