The films of South African artist Candice Breitz deal with the personal existential and relational issues of modern day men and women, and seen collectively offers a glimpse into her own life. Using ‘isolated’ scenes of Hollywood movies, scenes that have the protagonist isolated and the background blacked out, she projects several of these simultaneously to create a ‘symphony’ and a conversation between these characters, creating a story in the process.
By using household-name Hollywood movie actors and actresses, Breitz is also exploring another premise, our tendency to project the lives of these characters, played by famous actors, into our own and the formation of identities in the process. That by imagining ourselves as those actors, we are living in a media induced hyperreality.
The sculptures of French Algerian artist Kader Attia depict an alternative view of the most mainstream iconographic scenes. Often using materials previously held unthinkable, these provide a commentary and critique on various societal notions, challenging the way certain things or groups of people are viewed.
His research has led him to consider how much of traditional Algerian culture has been re-interpreted and used by western ‘cultural leaders’, world famous artists and architects of the modern era, without much acknowledgement of it. In response, he has conceived of the concept of ‘reappropriation’, a ‘re-reinterpretation’ of the traditional forms of Algerian culture in a new way so as to highlight a issue as well as bring about a new Algerian identity.
Kenyan artist Paul Onditi’s richly layered multi-media paintings, somewhat reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg’s collages, depict a solitary existence; a lonely struggle against the dizzying forces of change in the midst of a rapidly changing landscape that is presumably his hometown.
These forces are not native to Africa and thus his condition is a universal one. Spurred on by the similacra of our hyperreal society, these images depict the ephemerality of contemporary existence and ultimately are a commentary on illusion and reality. Here, Onditi displays the bewildering moments of disorientation when one realizes that fiction has overtaken reality, due to the seductive power of the similacrum, a shimmering beacon of light, allowing it to become more real than reality itself. This is after all, the core tenet of hyperreality.
Syrian American artist Diana Al-Hadid’s abstract liquefied sculptures with flowing, dripping forms frozen in time uses historical references to comment on various aspects of our contemporary existence. The act of liquefying a material and solidifying it both strengthens and produces an abstraction in form, somewhat reminiscent of a Pollock in 3 dimensions and also of architectural ruins. In this respect, it can be said that she uses the language of ruins to convey her message.
Levitation is another consistent theme; those free-flowing gravity defying forms, aided by the strength of material solidification and by hidden structural members, are inspired from her interest in the Baroque.
The carved wood block carvings of Latvian artist Mikelis Fisers shows a dystopian world, taken over by aliens or enlarged insects and other creatures, who have subjugated humans as their slaves, guinea pigs or servants.
Easily misunderstood and written off as childish, ludicrous or deviant on first impressions, but on a closer, more ‘esoteric’ inspection, one might see it as a mix of ancient tribal and comic art. The size of these prints, at 8″x10″, and the way it’s sort of ‘hidden’ within a recess in a column during the exhibition, also lends to this sub-culture feeling. But it is also a vernacular art; all the aliens, mermaids and dinosaurs, are the vernacular of the artist’s mind and are mixed together to create a mythological alternate reality.
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