September 2, 2009 — In the summer of 2005, University of Virginia sound artist Judith Shatin, whose office faces the Rotunda, conceived the idea of a film based on images and sounds captured over the course of a year on the Lawn.
She collaborated with award-winning experimental filmmaker Robert Arnold, who has just become director of the School of Film & Photography at Montana State University. They repurposed a camera and computer device normally used for surveillance on construction sites, and had the camera mounted high on Old Cabell Hall in February 2006 to record the Lawn's mercurial activities with the majestic frame of the Rotunda and ranges.
The result of the collaboration, titled "Rotunda," will be shown continuously in the U.Va. Art Museum's Object Study Gallery in conjunction with the special exhibition "Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village: The Creation of an Architectural Masterpiece," which opens Sept. 12.
While the camera captured over 300,000 fixed-point images, Shatin, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Music, collected sounds both in and around the Rotunda and conducted unscripted interviews about the historic site with students, Jefferson experts, professors, U.Va. alums and President John T. Casteen III. Brief excerpts from the interviews, as well as music created from them and from the daily sounds of the Lawn, weave everyday life into the film.
Shatin said that the project has given her an even more vivid sense of the magnitude of Jefferson's living legacy, and that she and Arnold were struck by the power and beauty of the images as they sorted through them. They structured the 15-minute film as one day on the Lawn unfolding over the course of a year, with the day moving from dawn to dusk as the year unfolds.
Admission to the U.Va. Art Museum is free. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For information, visit www.virginia.edu/artmuseum.