vendredi 17 octobre 2008
An Attack on Foam Core and on the Status Quo
Alix Pearlstein’s videos and video installations have always tagged her as a rogue structuralist. She prefers to leaven the mechanics of performance art and the moving image with good-size doses of domestic life, down-to-earth humor and revealing emotion while implicating the viewer in it all through wildly active camera movement. In her show of three new works at the Kitchen, Ms. Pearlstein appears to have taken off the gloves. Perhaps she has paid too much attention to 1970s precedents like the innovations of Michael Snow, Yvonne Rainer and Richard Serra. Perhaps the social and political events of the day have made her mad as hell and unable to take it anymore. Her actors often conduct themselves with an animalistic force; the camera is either unflinchingly immobile or relentlessly on the move. The result is a stripped-down, bare-knuckled starkness — not to mention an occasional obviousness — that is both a declaration of ambition and an attack on the status quo. For whatever reason, Ms. Pearlstein seems to have pulled the emotions and ideas in her art apart and is knocking their heads together. In “After the Fall,” the four-channel video installation that is the centerpiece, the action unfolds on four large screens, one to a wall. It doesn’t take long to figure out that a single scene has been shot by four cameras that either face one another in opposing pairs or circle the room — the very room in which we stand. On the screens four men and four women are divided into two teams by their attire. One group tends toward black and gold and seems ready to go clubbing; the other favors identical tones of pink and red, like overgrown members of the Mickey Mouse Club. The actors move back and forth between the center and the edges, taking part in different vignettes or just milling about, looking conspiratorially into the cameras. Their contact involves a bit of sex, a little violence (usually two couples pushing from opposite sides of a large white sheet of foam core), recurring ridicule and all-cast confabs in which they argue, gossip, vent or flirt. We seldom understand a word they say, but the facts of existence are clear: competitiveness, betrayal, manipulation, occasional moments of intimacy. The general sense of moral shiftlessness is echoed in the literal disorientation caused by the revolving images and our attempts to watch events unfold from four different angles. Life is no more pleasant in two single-channel pieces. In “One Side of Two Women 2” two disgruntled actresses in white walk back and forth, toward or away from a static camera, each one carrying a rectangle of white foam core that she holds in front of her face every time she stops to turn around. Three decades ago pretentious ideas about space, mirroring and repetition might have surrounded this piece; today it seems like a sarcastic meditation on the countless women who have figured in generations of avant-garde film and performance by men. In “Goldrush” the camera moves in close as the group of eight returns, this time to tear apart a sheet of foam core and grab at the scraps. Something — cinema, art, a world — is being destroyed by senseless greed. Not too complicated, perhaps, but painfully familiar right now.
For the last couple of decades, the seriously wily Alix Pearlstein has been making stark videos that combine group therapy, Pavlovian science, theater, slapstick comedy, and angsty existential pathos. For this large-scale outing Pearlstein is in fine form in several works. In the large gallery is the four-channel After the Fall, a combination orgy, hell, and soap opera featuring a number of lost souls, horny chicks, randy guys, and angry young men walking around one another, coming together, fighting, talking, and staring. It’s anyone’s guess what it’s all about, but it does have a look. In the back room we see similar characters doing similar things with similar results. Pearlstein coaxes you into a handsome visual realm, flirts with you, and then leaves you on your own.
It’s hard to stomach the sneering characters in Alix Pearlstein’s new videos, not the least because they direct their hostility at us. In the title piece, a racially diverse cast acts out a drama in which actors grope each other one moment and fight the next, then turn to give the camera the evil eye. Two more videos, featuring various run-ins between characters, illustrate the truism that all of us are fatally flawed—a point that’s difficult to dispute when political brawling and financial irresponsibility dominate headlines. Like a theatrical version of Survivor, the self-interested characters in After the Fall act out alliances and betrayals, creatively using a sheet of fiberboard as both barrier and weapon. Red and gold costumes evoke blood and money, while the four-screen projection—shot from different angles—not only suggests competing versions of the story, but keeps our eyes hopping around. When the actors break character and fix us with stony or disgusted looks, the ugliness of the story line and our voyeuristic interest hits home. In the end, everyone’s unhappy, which only underscores the postlapsarian state alluded to in the title while denying any possibility of redemption. An even deeper pessimism suffuses Goldrush, as actors brawl over scraps of the broken fiberboard. Humor emerges in Two Women 2, which riffs on Michael Snow’s experimental film “Two Sides to Every Story,” in which two huffy actors compete for the same role. But while the shorter videos allow viewers to see the actors as other people, the title piece compels us to change from viewer to actor.
Andrea K. Scott:
Pearlstein strips drama down to the bare bones—conflict, intimacy, ritual—in deadpan videos that alchemize the theatrical and the cinematic into a seductive third genre. Call it glam minimalism. In the four-channel video “After the Fall,” eight actors—four costumed in black and gold, the others in red and pink—conspire, break rank, and regroup in an absurd power struggle over a flimsy white board. Dialogue, though audible, is largely incomprehensible. There are traces of Bertolt Brecht, Lars Von Trier, Michael Snow, and even the tents in Bryant Park in Pearlstein’s gorgeous, rigorous mind-and-body game.
jeudi 16 octobre 2008
David Noonan (Chisenhale Gallery, London)
David Noonan's work comprise monochrome silkscreen on linen collages and clusters of freestanding figurative sculptures which expand his graphic images into a more theatrical space of display. Noonan often works with found photographic imagery taken from performance manuals, textile patterns and archive photographs to make densely layered montages. These works at once suggest specific moments in time and invoke disorientating a-temporal spaces in which myriad possible narratives emerge. The large-scale canvases framing this exhibition depict scenes of role-playing, gesturing characters, and masked figures set within stage-like spaces. Noonan's new suite of figurative sculptures, comprise life size wooden silhouettes faced with printed images of characters performing choreographed movements. While the figurative image suggests a body in space, the works' two dimensional cut-out supports insist on an overriding flatness which lends them an architectural quality – as stand-ins for actual performers and as a means by which to physically navigate the exhibition space.
Mime and experimental dance still have naff associations – especially of black-clad, white-faced figures adopting strange postures – but this is exactly the sort of retro imagery in David Noonan’s new work. Rather than provoking humour or a sense of the bleedingly unhip, Noonan conjures up a mood far more poetic, filmic and, considering the subject matter, oddly still. The artist has collaged monochrome screenprints of these found images – a pasty Pierrot applying lipstick, a group of drama students sitting cross-legged on the floor – on to heavy linen. The black ink on brown creates a sepia-tint effect but the era could be anytime from the early twentieth century onwards, and the imagined context either benignly theatrical or cultish and sinister. Noonan has also carpeted the floor in a jute material and installed life-size cut-outs, allowing the viewers to interact with this giant, 3D film still. Invoking cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky (‘El Topo’, ‘Santa Sangre’) in connection with Noonan’s work seems apt here. Jodorowsky studied mime with Marcel Marceau before picking up a camera, and while Noonan’s work is far less extreme (and with none of Jodorowsky’s gore-factor), there’s a similar approach to the body and a shared romantic sense of the surreal.
Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard (Kate MacGarry Gallery, London)Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard present a new work that pushes their recent series of re-working video and performance work from the early 1970's one step further. Walking Over Acconci (Misdirected Reproaches) is both a re-working and a response to a re-working, again twisting the language of contemporary urban music culture. In 2005, Forsyth and Pollard worked with a young MC Plan B to re-interpret and transform Vito Acconci's Walk-Over (Indirect Approaches) (1973). The result, Walking After Acconci (Redirected Approaches), updated Acconci's harsh second-person narrative address, combining it with the slick aesthetic of contemporary music videos. Speaking directly to the camera, the viewer is cast as the spurned lover watching as Plan B paces the corridor outside detailing the perks of his new lover after leaving "a girl as average as you." Applying the musical tradition of the 'answer song', the new film, Walking Over Acconci (Misdirected Reproaches), gives voice to the other side of the story. Like Smokey Robinson's 'Got a Job' in response to the Silhouette's 1958 hit 'Get a Job', or the song feud between Neil Young's 'Southern Man' and Lynyrd Skynrd's 'Sweet Home Alabama' and more recently Eamon and Frankee's manufactured chart spat with F.U.R.B., there is a fluid space of myth and rumour that moves between each narrative. Casting young female electro MC Miss Odd Kidd, Walking Over Acconci similarly draws on Acconci's original to create a new, stand alone work, while also providing its own direct, razor sharp rebuttal to Plan B's previous claims. In its confrontation?complicit with and completed by you, the viewer?the film extends beyond the re-make to create its own performative genealogy.
Getting slagged off to your face by your ex-girlfriend isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. Particularly when the ex in question is a lippy, articulate, loudmouth girl in a stripy top and skinny jeans, who is now going out wiv’ someone who doesn’t give her ANY SHIT, is a great cook and has a big dick too. Lucky you’re in a gallery, and this is just an art video by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, the lippy bird being up-and-coming London MC MissOddKidd. For many years Forsyth and Pollard’s work has explored the border between art, pop music and popular culture. ‘Walking over Acconci (Misdirected Reproaches)’ is their second reworking of seminal video artist Vito Acconci’s 1973 ‘Walk-Over’, in which the artist, pacing to and from the camera in a long corridor, addresses the viewer about the qualities of a third, female subject, comparing her qualities to ‘you’. Acconci’s original tests the question of who ‘you’ is in the relationship between the viewer and an interlocutor who is only really a video image, at the advent of the novel medium of video. Forsyth and Pollard’s remake celebrates how we’ve become used to being addressed directly by a screen image: we’re a generation brought up on the image of the pop singer and now the rapper, addressing the camera and speaking directly to the viewer. MissOddKidd’s songs touch on the generic experiences of young urban life, of drugs and shit boyfriends, and her ‘misdirected reproaches’ are expertly generic and clichéd. Forsyth and Pollard’s insight is in the way they reveal how our culture of TV-mediated emotional authenticity is itself a masquerade, a performance.
mercredi 15 octobre 2008
Marres, Centre for Contemporary Culture (Maastricht, Pays-Bas), mars 2007
Curated by Lisette Smits and Alexis Vaillant:
A ruin is defined as the disjunctive product of the intrusion of nature into an edifice without loss of the unity produced by the human builders. Time, proposed as the principal cause of ruin, serves also to unify the ruin. In a ruin the edifice, the man-made part, and nature are one and inseparable; an edifice separated from its natural setting is no longer part of a ruin since it has lost its time, space and place. A ruin has a signification different from something merely man-made. It is like no other work of art, and its time is unlike any other time. A ruin is always ‘over’, in spite of the fact that it necessarily holds fragments of history. Moreover, a ruin is not in front of us. Decay evolves next to us, not to say with us. That's the reason why we can say that at the beginning, there is the ruin. Modern times have transformed the way ruins and monuments are approached and considered to the point where ruins became "contemporary ruins", closer to present than to past. "Contemporary ruins" are produced both by the acceleration of time and the growing fascination with deterioration. They test the very idea of a ruin within a system of objects structured by the invention of permanency. Good ruins do not illustrate or morally demonstrate this, but are able to re-reverse logics of time from science fiction to archaeology, from peplum to I-pod. Ruin lets off the very idea of theme because the ruin uses up any theme.
As soon as you start looking around, you see ruins everywhere.
Did you ever feel like an old bag in front of a work of art?
This show offers you a group of hopeful ruins, displayed in a classical nineteenth century aristocratic Dutch house. Here you will come face to face with the Nelly faggot, the spunky Nordic suitcase, the marble hand tapping his way through a fantastic water colour bleached world, a booty of damaged artworks, a mountain of freshly white sprayed earphones, the Jason mask without a face, the black plexiglass mandala, the silver animated survival cover, the suspended up bird, the celebration-church-bordello, and many more. Once in The Corridor of Who Knows When, some are arriving, others are leaving. If you expect nostalgia, be assured that nostalgic images just reiterate an inherited set of cultural expectations. These hopeful ruins might not fulfil that promise. A ruin definitely alludes to the dissociation of ubiquitous artworks, lost in their photographic "entombed" time. Hopeful ruins resist their representation by being fragmented and, like raw material, ever again available. They point out the fragility of images, which are just thin illusions, doomed to fail our expectations, doomed eventually to crumble.
Farîd-Ud-Dîn'Attar, Robert Breer, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Dee Ferris, Jason Fox, Vidya Gastaldon, Richard Hawkins, Uwe Henneken, Karl Holmqvist, Jonathan Horowitz, Dorota Jurczak, John Kleckner, Petra Mrzyk & Jean-François Moriceau, Alessandro Pessoli, Nathalie Rebholz, Nick Relph & Oliver Payne, Re-Magazine, Markus Schinwald, V/Vm, Camille Vivier, T.J. Wilcox, and several historical damaged art works to be discovered.
jeudi 2 octobre 2008
Sleeping Out Summer Night, truck cap, radio, plexi, fabric, wood, linoleum, paint (millieu),
Love Song (soft rock), found furniture, linoleum, mirror, paint (arrière plan)
Love Song (soft rock), found furniture, linoleum, mirror, paint (arrière plan)
Braman allows the incongruous to coalesce with an elegant, human clumsiness. She has an instinctive admiration for inept materials. The works in the show combine found furniture, linoleum, a camping tent and car panels with wood, plexiglas and paint. Braman appears to work without inhibition, second-guessing or self-consciousness. Each material, as with a fault or quality in a lover, is celebrated equally for its flaws and its successes. It is as if she approaches the works with the same mix of vehemence and disregard of someone penning a love song. The materials used have a sense of lost and found or something fallen and risen again. The instinctual manner of her process is akin to the inherent resourcefulness of a child building a den or the dislocated building a new home. Braman embraces the very human need and ability to reconstruct and piece together. Her work acts likes gestures towards shelter. Creating intimate volumes she reformulates materials and space for the better. In one of the sculptures an unattached, thick, foam rectangle sits beneath an off kilter square formed from a large sheet of plexi and a half broken, half cut desk. The form becomes both a refuge and an empty volume. By intuitively adding paint to the sculptures, Braman emphasizes this divide in the formal reading. The paint presents another human need to decorate and embellish, as well as highlighting structural elements such as joints and surfaces. It is as if, in the departure of the sculptures into abstraction, Braman gives a reminder of the hand that put them there. This is not sculpture based on either/or decisions. Beautifully composed interlocking planes, and subtle contrasts of light and color are built of roughly cut materials, balanced on awkward angles, loosely painted and combined with sagging cloth. The works are not concerned with all that is wrong and all that is right with sculpture, but instead oppose such finitudes, allowing a freedom to exist within the knowledge that the finite has been decided for us anyway.
In its extensive use not only of found materials, but also of found furniture, Sarah Braman’s latest contests between painting and sculpture are larger and more ambitious, if also a little more generic. Her tilted structures now incorporate parts of desks, shelves and car panels, a device that makes them more difficult to understand from any single position. The greater complexity also creates more opportunities for applied color and brushwork, which, in turn, coax you to circumnavigate the pieces. The resulting unfolding and interplay of hand-made and mass-produced is unexpectedly rewarding, although it would be better if the level of slovenliness were lower.
Wendy White (Leo Koenig Inc., New York)
Wendy White’s compositions utilize a distinctive abstract language that alludes to the bombardment of the everyday. Urban sprawl, space junk, graffiti, buried hazardous material, and the accumulation of refuse are punctuated by heavy black areas that map a direct trail from the ubiquitous to the subconscious. Unafraid to conjure real feeling and emotion in these works, White gives new form to the bombast of rock concerts and the mass elation of sports arenas. Built organically and intuitively, these works balance accident and scrappy paint handling with compositional coherence. While White seems to work with reckless abandon, her off-kilter compositions prove well considered with time, though perhaps deliberately confounding. Just when one begins to get involved in a lush patch of painterly abstraction, a field of blank white canvas, almost large enough to topple the composition, is encountered. Flatness combats depth, black is balanced against white, and fluorescent colors fade and emerge on top of a surface that is consistently finessed.
There are so many artists inspired by Christopher Wool, Albert Oehlen, and Charlene Von Heyl right now that you’d think those people were Greek Gods. While many of their imitators’ work can look dandy-like and mannered in its nonchalance and quasi-expressionism, a number of younger folks are hitting pay dirt. One is Wendy White, who balances wildness and withholding, with a dose of something almost diabolically planned. She delivers three punches at once: Color, graffiti-like agility, and formal structure. This prevents her work from looking angsty, imitative, and fake. Her paintings have a presence the reminds one of billboards and websites, something at once physical and disembodied.
Wendy White’s debut show at Leo Koenig features paintings made of multiple canvases abutting each other, as though the frantic activity that splays across them can barely be contained. Airbrushed passages recalling graffiti tags create sooty densities that are offset by large expanses of white. Bits of fluorescent colors appear here and there, glowing like toxic embers. White’s technique ranges from sprays and smears to taped-out areas that have been painted over, leaving a glyphlike residue that evokes the relationship between the written mark and the painted one. White places sculptures assembled from found materials beside her paintings, creating a theater where real life is pulverized into abstraction. The objects, which look like they come from a 99¢ store, provide a reference point for the paintings, preventing them from seeming too utopian, while allowing the possibility for narrative readings. In Autokennel, a softball sits atop a metal rod in front of three frenzied canvases, as if to say that the paint has been pitched out or run around the bases of a game. A small white-and-black soccer ball juts out next to Mrs. Dash, invoking the speed and aggression of the World Cup. The brushstrokes seem to track the ball’s trajectory as players struggle to get it into the goal. Athletic and spastic, White’s work sparks with style and energy like Ab Ex on Gatorade.