Saturday, December 11, 2010

Darri Lorenzen 90 Minutes from where you are now & Wilhelm Sasnal the Swineherd (2008) at Villa Reykjavík by craniv boyd

Darri Lorenzen 90 Minutes from where you are now &

Wilhelm Sasnal the Swineherd (2008) at Villa Reykjavik at Háskólabío, Við Hagatorg Reykjavík. July 13, 2010. 


This is long overdue, I saw the premier of both of these works over the summer in Háskólabío (college Cinema) Iceland, during the Villa Reykjavík Arts Festival 2010. Organized and the Brainchild of the following arts professionals from Poland:  Raster / Stowarzyszenie Integracji Kultury, Warsaw Concept: Łukasz Gorczyca & Michał Kaczyńsk. I saw many exhibitions during that festival, and heard super loud performances taking place in the bay of Reykjavík, but this is what I personally found most memorable, a screening at a movie theatre in Vesturbær. It showcased the work of Icelandic yet Berlin based artist Darri Lorenzen, and Polish Wilhelm Sasnal. Viewing both works one after the other proved to me that the artists approach to the cinema is drastically different from that of a commercial director, and refreshingly so. In these times of Icelandic financial crisis it is good to see quality art house "films" for free at the local movie theatre at Hagatorg in Vesturbær.


Darri's work Titled 90 Minutes from where you are now, was screened first that evening. This title calls to mind other titles of other artwork such as the Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of the Living, or You Me and Everyone we Know, or I Want To Spend the Rest of My Life Everywhere, with Everyone, One to One, Always, Forever, Now. Its title to me suggests more affinity for that which is current, than the minimalist canon because it is not "Untitled (cinema work #1)" or "Op. # 95" Like a composition of late classical early romantic music. Sometimes I find that the titling of a work draws an imaginary line between the artist who made the work and titled it, and whatever art or philosophical traditions they wish to affiliate themselves with.


Darri Lorenzen's video piece that was screened in mid July is a cinema file and a work of art that plays with the expectations of viewing. That is supposed to occur when people attending a movie are in a movie theatre. It is aggressively minimal, yet not with out a touch of irony putting it firmly in a 21st century art canon. Seasoned Swedish video artists who were also participating in the same arts festival but at a different venue walked in during the middle of the loop, which is projected on a full-sized movie screen, were both shocked and confused asking repeatedly "what is this?" or "what am I seeing?" the answer was at times not much, a piece about perception that was for several minutes a minuscule white dot trembling in a vast field of black. Ominous sounds shook the theatre as the solo white speck leapt into action, the color of the screen shifted from black to some kind of grey, to blue. This work assaulted the senses and provided bewildered spectators with a rare moment to reflect, why do we not see cinema for its non-narrative potential? I got the impression that people seated in the theatre were seeing this kind of minimal work there in Iceland for the first time, however many were there for the festival, not to see the latest Tom Cruise action comedy, (usual fare at Háskólabío) so in a way Mr. Lorenzen was preaching to the converted, that being the current art initiated. It would be a sight to see this work shown to the gangs of teenagers who are the regular denizens of Háskólabío view this, what would their reaction be if this came on in the middle of or at the start of a commercial picture? Would a kind of pandemonium ensue like the fabled premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring a century ago in Paris? One can only speculate. I was thrilled to see such a stark artwork in the movie theatre context. Darri Lorenzen could mail the MoMA a copy of 90 Minutes from where you are now; after all they are one of many modern museums with a film collection and a Cinema in the Basement for screening purposes that is if they haven't purchased one of the edition already.


 Après intermission there was the screening of Wilhelm Sasnal's first film Swineherd 2008, a co-production between Sasnal and his Zurich Gallery Hauser &Wirth. He is Polish born and a known painter, fairly young and seasoned having had paintings sold at record prices in the secondary art market at both dueling auction houses Christies and Sotheby's in the chic evening sales. I was flipping through a catalogue of polish contemporary art edited by artist Piotor Ulansky and Sasnal is represented there with a relational aesthetics cannon piece, ordinary Polish people gathering together to pose in a group photograph forming the letter A. "A" as in anarchy or perhaps I am mistaken. What I saw then was a highly nostalgic film, shot on Black and white 16 or super 16mm, it transported viewers to the countryside of Poland in a time that was for all intensive purposes fairly timeless. After seeing German release Die Wiesse Band 2010 also filmed in retro black and white style Sasnal's Swineherd looked kind of familiar. Both films seemed to depict petty brutality and cruelty sometimes found in rural villages. Sasnal's narrative was rougher and more open ended, it seemed to be at home in the great eras of Italian Realism in the 50's or New Wave it had something of early Polanski student film like Nóż w wodzie (knife in water), the power relationships and the downright meanness that characters in Polanski films are capable of. Sasnal's modest proposition included a self-conscious critique of the medium of film at one point seemingly out of nowhere in particular; SUDDENLY a group of male polish youths find novel ways of destroying a 16 mm camera. There is the punk rock destructive passage in this film then we return to Sasnal's strange timeless pastoral on the Polish countryside. 

Exiting the cinema fairly late in the evening about 10:00 P.M. or 10:30, and it was still bright out, typical Iceland in July. by craniv boyd©

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