Monday, April 25, 2011


MODULE 2 / EMMANUEL VAN DER AUWERA / BRING US TO OURSELVES, MIKHAÏL 07 JANVIER 2011 - 30 JANVIER 2011 Palais du Tokyo, Paris. by craniv boyd.

Bunraku puppet theatre is alive and well in France, Belgian based artist Emmanuel van der Auwera posits a new method to work with marionettes in his 2009 short film Bring us to Ourselves MIKHAÏL, it is a cynical work that heralds the victory of euro democracy over Socialism, which could now twenty years after the fall of the iron curtain seem like old news. 


The film is an exercise in a sustained form of irony a crucial moment for understanding this study is a shot of "Mikhail" Gorbachev in three quarters human scale as a puppet he rides in the back seat of a limousine pensive in a place that must be near the former east Berlin because of a glimpse from the car window of the German Democratic Republic era television tower on Alexander Platz, an socialist obelisk architectonic accessory that capitals of many of the Warsaw pact nations like in Tallinn, Estonia, or Vilnius Lithuania had, and still have now. The viewers know from a passing glance out the window of the vehicle where Mikhail is traveling, the fact that he has not left home today without his Louis Vuitton bag is a cruel joke. Viewer ship can recognize meta if not the derivative source for this particular camera angle or scene, it is from a 2008 advertisement where the real Gorbachev sponsors the Louis Vuitton bag, the conceit that a former world leader one member of Perestroika and proponent of Glasnost would be preoccupied with what kind of hand luggage he takes with him is weird.


Film authors like David Lynch occasionally depart from a specific image, like a severed ear in a freshly mowed suburban lawn as in Blue Velvet (1986) working intuitively building a narrative from that single striking and original image that could be an overture or clue to depict a kind of suppressed and obfuscated violence rampant in North America. Van der Auwera departs from an image that although original and striking, retired cold war era eastern European politician with hyper capitalist fetish commodity next to him on way to some round table discussion or negotiation or other, the image finds its origins out side of the mind of the artist who selects to work with it. Seeing a rather long passage in the short film devoted to depicting an ironical twist on advisement for a French luxury brand, you suspect the whole film is built on this shaky foundation, the sand quickens as Mikhail gets out of the car to leave flowers possibly as a bereaved for a loved one (mother Russia in her socialist lifetime) at the foot of the remainder of that asbestos infested barricade 1961-1989 that was the iron curtain at its most visible instance in Western Europe, the Berlin wall. Or is Mikhail here to leave flowers in an act of penance a belated apology for not taking the wall down right away when the late R. Reagan demanded it in a speech held in front of the Brandenburg gate.


The thread snaps as the marionette enters a junked out trashed office space, he is manipulated by two young men of European extraction who look serious and nondescript, their downcast eyes seem to whisper "look at the puppet, at the face of the marionette." The lighting schema is dramatic and overtly theatrical with a dominant bias toward primary color contrast we see blue shadows in red floodlights or vice versa, so as to indicate with heavy handed light design a heightened emotion where the empathetic Richter scale lies flat. It is difficult to feel pathos for a puppet even if the puppet gets wet, as Mikhail does in Bring us to ourselves Mikhail due to the office sprinkler system that is set of for no apparent reason other than climactic flare, perhaps the lights look better and more sparkling when the surfaces in the frame are wet.


The credits roll and the short film is over open ended and poetic as it was at the start, one thing is certain that it is presented by the 21st centuries answer to Academic Painting of the salons of Baudelaire's time, or rather a kind of Bau Haus redeaux for multi or newest medias and technologies. How fruitful is it for a young artist to have the imprimatur of sponsorship, funding and the post-modern version of the Academe branded at the end of their short work? When that work winds up looking over managed on the technical, and budgeting sides and malnourished on the concept and creative sides. The paltry view provided by a work that looks smooth almost too slicked slides over hot button topics like socialism communism and commodity fetish presenting every thing from an uncritical confused distance, that is half mocking and pedantic at once. By craniv boyd  

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