The Imaginary, The Symbolic,
and The Real
December 2, 2012 – January 4, 2013
The Imaginary, The Symbolic, and The Real, an exhibition of influential video works
from the Richard J. Massey Collection.
The exhibition features important film and video works by artists Eve Sussman, Edith DeKyndt, John Gerrard, Brent Green, Melanie Manchot, Robin Rhode, and Matt Saunders.
Sublime sunlight glints over an otherwise dim royal parlor. The camera pans slowly, embarking on a fluidly choreographed 360 degree Steadicam single-shot take. Actors dressed in period costume perform the imagined gestures leading up to and following the famous image portrayed in the 1658 painting Las Meninas by Diego Vel·zquez. A dwarf stokes the fire, a dog rolls onto his back, a lady-in-waiting bows to the queen.
These are scenes from Eve Sussman & The Rufus Corporation’s 89 Seconds at Alcazar, which premiered at the 2004 Whitney Biennial and has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The high definition 12-minute loop is part of an exhibition of video works from the Richard J. Massey Collection, The Imaginary, The Symbolic, and The Real, on view at Mana Contemporary from December 2, 2012 – January 4, 2013. The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Eileen S. Kaminsky Family Foundation.
Sussman’s work is just one example of a new generation of video art bridging the boundaries between painting and film. Such videos transcend what traditional art can do, such as installations projecting onto gallery walls, illuminating darkened rooms with the artistís breathtaking images, scores, and sound effects. Sussman said in interviews that 89 Seconds was influenced by her experience shooting cinèma vèritè, and that she was inspired by the Vel·zquez painting from the moment she saw it at the Prado.
In addition to Sussman, the exhibition of Massey’s collection includes important film and video works by artists Edith Dekyndt, John Gerrard, Brent Green, Melanie Manchot, Robin Rhode and Matt Saunders. Mana Contemporary is providing viewers with a personal, uninterrupted experience with each film by building several private screening rooms.
Gerrard’s Cuban School (2011, Realtime 3D) creates a virtual site visit of a derelict Soviet-era building on the outskirts of Havana that houses 75 children. The building is essentially a “functional ruin.” Working from extensive photographs and topographical satellite data, the artist created a meticulous digital model, a portrait, over which the artist has an unprecedented control. Through an unflinching camera orbit, and 365 day cycle, the work powerfully comments on the melancholic demise of a political vision.
Green, who spent his childhood in Appalachia and lives in a barn in rural Pennsylvania, makes charmingly crude stop-motion animation shorts using carved wood figurines, found props and childish drawings. His video shorts often explore dark, melancholy themes, evoking the work of Tim Burton. In Paulina Hollers, (2006, 12:35 min.), a troubled youth is hit by a school bus and ends up in hell. His religious mother chases him into the harrowing netherworld by shooting herself, hoping to save him from eternal damnation. The soundtrack features a rollocking band and the artist narrates the film by shouting the tale like an impassioned preacher. The strikingly raw and handmade nature of Green's work offers an endearing authenticity that is not to be missed.
Saunders’ Double Matti (2006), is a diptych of 16mm black and white animated film projections inspired by the late actor Matti Pellonpaa in a scene from the Finnish director Aki Kaurismakiís 1988 ‘Ariel.’ Saunders’ film assembles more than a thousand drawings of the actor made with ink on mylar. One screen shows the actor still, sometimes dozing, the other screen shows Pellonpaa talking and peering around. In both views, his image slips in and out of legibility with the swirls and hiccups of Saundersí brushstrokes.
German artist Melanie Manchot’s Security (2005, DVD, 20:04 min.) was filmed outside Ibiza’s superclubs and features a single screen projection and seven small flatscreen monitors. Each monitor shows a bouncer standing next to his nightclub, and in the big projection each of them removes his clothes, peeling away the layers of their security outfits and the impressions of power that these clothes provide. The installation illustrates the tension between strength and vulnerability and the contradiction of pride and shame.
These video and film works, along with others in the show, represent an extraordinary art collection and should spark the imagination and trigger emotions for all who view it. Many of the artists represented in the show are rising stars in the medium, and by exploring temporal themes (i.e., the “fourth dimension”), film and video art continues to push forward the boundaries of new media, and with it, our relationship with time and space.
Eve Sussman and The Rufus Corporation, (Back to the Camera). Still from 89 Seconds at Alcázar, 2004.
Melanie Manchot, (Chris) Still from Security, 2005.
John Gerrard, Still from Cuban School (Sancti Spiritu), 2011.