Saturday, July 23, 2011

Once Upon A Time: Francis Alÿs, Cao Fei, Pierre Huyghe, Aleksandra Mir, Mika Rottenberg, Janaina Tschape: Fantastic Narratives in Contemporary Video,

Once Upon A Time: Francis Alÿs, Cao Fei, Pierre Huyghe, Aleksandra Mir, Mika Rottenberg, Janaina Tschape: Fantastic Narratives in Contemporary Video, curated by associate curator and Manager of curatorial affairs, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Joan Young: 8.7-9.10, Deutsche + Guggenheim, Unter den Linden 13/15, 101117 Berlin, Germany, by craniv boyd.


This exhibition, at the Deutsche+ Guggenheim, is firmly in the here and now, and, its art, soon to be dated or obsolete in appearance. The fact that it is a thematic exhibition, of late Nineteen Nineties and early past millennial art, truly recent Video art in the collections of either the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, or Deutsche Bank, and labeled suggestively in the title as "Fantastic" gives a cue, or false start, to the grouping of the current artists represented in this installation.


Fantastic, we hope, is not meant in the qualitative declarative meaning often ascribed to the word in speech. What is meant perhaps, by this usage of the word by, Joan Young, and the exhibition organizers, and confirmed by the art shown, is more of a fairy tale and far-fetched nature. Over the top tongue in cheek temporary land art made for Dutch television in the work of Polish born Aleksandra Mir, second generation Structuralist Film making spliced with post colonial global discourse, and local community volunteer work as landscape design, in the hands of a South American Biennial project by Belgian born artist Francis Alÿs, Out sourced East Asian, Artisan production by Franco American cultural producers, Frenchman Pierre Huyghe, and the late, American Phillip Parenneo, a video art work that needs self decidedly an intellectual property lawyer.  Or fairy tale musings in documentaries tri-part video of an OSRAM light bulb plant, located in China, after the conception of Chinese artist Cao Fei.  Fantastical or Phantasmagorical, an impossible bread factory assembly line manned by women in ripe colored polyester tropical uniforms, the Argentinean Mika Rottenberg. Fable like dancing barefoot in a quizzical costume, until you drop, in your private villa in Wiemar set to a romance era piano forte sonata, by Brazil born Janaina Tschape.


First woman on the moon is a work that in 1999 recreated on a beach in Holland the creater where Neil Armstrong and the Apollo mission landed on the moon. The saturated color of the footage of the video loop, taken by Piotr Uklanski, has a lighthearted fun house beach party flair. Compared with the Hasseblad documentation photographs that in one case have the dual function of, exhibition design element, the high quality photos of women in white that grace: the poster advertising Once Upon a Time, the current edition of the Deutsche +Guggenheim's newsletter, and the events calendar. When you hire a team of construction workers in the Netherlands to recreate a section of the Moon, with bulldozers for you and your pals to walk up, take good documentation photographs with the same camera that NASA used when they went on the lunar expedition. 


For an edition of the Lima Biennial in Peru, Francis Alÿs, who is based in Mexico City, went yet further south and got some 500 Peruvian volunteers to "shift " a mountain with metal shovels for one day. The work a three channeled video installation, one low placed television screen and two free hanging "horse-Blinders" of the same mountain back projected, is installed with a preface of the "Making Of" micro documentary. The participants have more to say of how they felt and what they though when making this stiff Formalistic work, so that the voices of the university students in south of the equator Latin America, seem more refreshing than one more stilted work by the Belgian Artist, who took an ice cube or a tin can for a walk in Mexico city, and ended up on the cover of Art forum for a while.


Pierre Huyghe is represented first by an invoice to a Japanese animator who drew a cell and developed a character. The invoice is in a frame to make the global nature of the work and just who is the artist that should be credited as "contemporary". Inside an temporary video enclave, a large video projection that really looks in terrible need of de-interlacing, because still images of the work, looked much more crisp in their press photos. A digitally manipulated speech of Neil Armstrong mixed with Jules Verne and a schematic showing a hyper-specific random thread assigned to bind Snæfellsjókjull, to Jules Verne, to Neil Armstrong and space exploration. The glowing Japanese Anime character walks, head downcast through a barren grey field. The Field changes with the utterances on the audio track, it looks like a decibel graph, extruded and rendered in three dimensions. I suspect those who play video games saturated with high quality digital graphics that change rapidly, might be disappointed in the blank, simple and one trick pony nature of Pierre Huyghe's out sourced collaborative video work in this exhibition. 



The dignity of the changing dreams of Chinese workers is a mood set and sustained in an elegant, with cheapo means, low fidelity standard definition video, by Cao Fei. It is silent no loquacious dialogue, like C. Chaplin's classic film Modern Times, and emphasizes body movement and dance as language of Chinese men and women who despite working as laborers in a light-bulb factory, possess the skills and ability, to dance Peking Opera, emulate a Crane or stand on toes in point shoes. The plant workers are shown in a light at although of harsh neon cast is slightly maudlin, yet as such the people Cao Fei presents in Whose Utopia? are having over the duration of the video triad, an oddly unsentimental bearing. Sensitivity of approach to the people with whom she worked speaks of an author from that region.


The far-fetched bread factory which Mika Rottenberg, built for her video parleys in a similar æsthetic of Dr. Suess, the Grinch that stole Christmas might buy this supper long bread, or the partner of the Cat in the Hat might work in this kind of a bread factory with oddly shaped conveyor belt, where she sheds acidic tears that help the yeast rise the dough. The work in its decidedly claustrophobic and cramped presentation method, to inflict a type of temporary intimacy with strange exhibition public, is fun house. The fancy free amusement park way, of displaying a work of video art, is clearly meant to bring smile to the corners of Deutsche + Guggenheim, visitors mouths. By craniv boyd. 

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