Forum 65: Jones, Koester, Nashashibi/Skaer: Reanimation, July 2–October 3, 2010, Forum Gallery
Pittsburgh, PA…Carnegie Museum of Art presents Forum 65: Jones, Koester, Nashashibi/Skaer: Reanimation, two films and a digital projection featuring silent, hypnotic loops that bring to life different objects, images, and history, casting each in a new light.
The darkened Forum Gallery will be animated by three artists’ works that draw on varied cultural artifacts: archival photography from the Great Depression (Punctured by William E. Jones), a centuries-old Italian folk dance originally created as a cure for poisonous spider bites (Tarantism by Joachim Koester), and artworks on display in a museum (Flash in the Metropolitan by Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer). In each, the artist employs subtly choreographed movements to expose and alter cultural, perceptual, and historical circumstances. Activated by the basic yet infinitely mutable ability of film and video to allow action to unfold over time, each work creates a complex interplay between stillness and movement, agitation and contemplation, and darkness and light.
The exhibition features artists William E. Jones (b. 1962, Canton, OH, lives in Los Angeles), Joachim Koester (b. 1962, Copenhagen, Denmark, lives in Brooklyn, New York and Copenhagen), and collaborating artists Rosalind Nashashibi (b. 1973, Croydon, UK, lives in London) and Lucy Skaer (b. 1975, Cambridge, UK, lives in Glasgow and London). None of these artists has exhibited at Carnegie Museum of Art before. Forum 65 also includes an opening night film screening of recent works by each artist, two of which will receive their United States debut. This is the first exhibition at Carnegie Museum of Art organized by associate curator of contemporary art Dan Byers, who joined the museum in May 2009.
Altering cultural, perceptual, and historical circumstances
In Punctured, William E. Jones sequences 100 photographs shot for the Farm Security Administration during the Great Depression that were rejected by punching a hole through each negative. A number of these rejected (or “killed’) images are among the negatives the Library of Congress has scanned and made available on their Web site, Jones has animated the killed photographs by stringing the images together, beginning each frame at the black hole of the photograph and then slowly zooming out, revealing the surrounding image before moving onto the next frame of blackness and exposing a new Depression-era scene. Joachim Koester’s film Tarantism takes its starting point from the spastic, possessed condition known as tarantism and the exorcism dance meant to cure the effects of the tarantula’s bite. A group of dancers individually interpret this state of reverie with hypnotic, frenzied results. In Flash in the Metropolitan, Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer navigate darkened galleries and film objects in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, capturing them with rhythmic flashes of illumination. Ancient artifacts are animated by alternating moments of absence with moments of exposure, thus triggering questions about the permanence of memory and culture.
Forum 65: Jones, Koester, Nashashibi/Skaer: Reanimation will have a public opening reception beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 1. William E. Jones will discuss his work before a screening of three short films: Morning of the Magicians (2005) by Joachim Koester, which is receiving its American debut; Our Magnolia (2010) by Nashashibi/Skaer; and the worldwide debut of selections from the No Product series (2010) by Jones.
About the works of art
William E. Jones
DVD; sequence of digital files, black-and-white, silent, 4:56 min., looped
Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
During the Great Depression, the Farm Security Administration (FSA), commissioned more than 100,000 photographs of American life according to scripts developed by project director Roy Stryker. (Stryker is familiar to Pittsburgh as the director of the Pittsburgh Photographic Library, the initiative that documented the city in the 1950s and is now housed at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.) Of the 145,000 negatives exposed and sent back to Washington (taken by the likes of Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Ben Shahn), Stryker edited out, or “killed,” nearly 68,000, marking the rejected negatives with a hole-punch. Drawing on high-resolution scans made by the Library of Congress, Jones’s Punctured (2010) strings together 100 killed images, calling into question the criteria by which the photos were selected, and thus the way history is represented. The viewer is offered a meditation on the material life—and afterlife—of images. In Jones’s seductive presentation, the black mark of the hole-punch creates a formal rhythm that guides our navigation through the sequence of photographs. The black abstraction is in constant antagonistic contrast to the images of poverty and social circumstances, filled with historically distant yet emotionally immediate expressions on the faces of Depression-era America.
Jones has shown his films and artworks at major institutions throughout North America and Europe. In 2009, he was the subject of solo exhibitions at the Wexner Center, Columbus, Ohio, and ar/ge kunst, Bolzano, Italy. Recently, his work has been included in Beg, Borrow and Steal, the Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2009–2010); the Nordic Pavilion, 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); the 2008 Whitney Biennial; and The Porn Identity: Expeditions into the Dark Zone, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2009), among other exhibitions. Programs dedicated to Jones’s films have been held at institutions such as Tate Modern, London (2005); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2006); and The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh (2003). In 2010, Jones was the subject of a retrospective at Anthology Film Archives in New York.
16 mm film; black-and-white, silent, 6:31 min., looped
Courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali, New York
Tarantism was a condition diagnosed in Southern Italy resulting from the bite of the wolf spider, known as the tarantula. The bite causes nausea, difficulties in speech, delirium, heightened excitability, and restlessness. The bodies of the victims are seized by convulsions that, in the Middle Ages, were thought curable only by a sort of frenzied dancing. This “dancing-cure” emerged as a local phenomena around the city of Galatina and was practiced everywhere in the region until the mid-20th century. The stylized dance developed from a form of uncoordinated movements, where, as Koester describes it, people would “quiver and hurl their heads, shake their knees, grind their teeth and make the actions of madmen.”
Koester has written, “My interest in tarantism lies in its original promise—a dance of uncontrolled and compulsive movements, spasms and convulsions. My intention was to film a group of dancers that explore this grey zone, the fringes of the body, and make a 16mm film structured around six individually choreographed parts, each defined by a different set of rules. The process of creating and filming Tarantism therefore takes the form of a ‘game,’ an idea put in motion to generate the movements of the dancers, making a constructed anthropological platform for a journey towards the ‘terra incognita’ of the body.”
Each of the dancers, despite their agitated outward gestures and possessed interiority, relates to the others through the camera’s movements. These connections are achieved through panning shots that overlap the performers or mass them together, as well as sequences that feature just one dancer, connected by short spells of the screen fading to black. The moments of blackness create inky fields that the dancers slowly infiltrate, sometimes led into the frame by a foot or arm. Koester creates tension between the specificities of each performer (his or her dress or body) and the generality of an archetype that can reach, obliquely, back through cultural history. Tarantism presents an affective experience that somehow translates this “terra incognita” state through inchoate movement.
Koester works predominantly in film and photography. His recent solo exhibitions include From the Secret Garden of Sleep, Greene Naftali Gallery, New York (2010); The Hashish Club, Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin (2010); Ghost Tracks, Overgaden, Copenhagen (2008); and Tarantism & Pit Music, Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen (2008). Koester has also had solo shows at Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Galeri Jan Mot, Brussels; Extra City Center for Contemporary Art, Antwerp; Lund Kunsthall, Lund, Sweden; CASM, Center d’Art Santa Monica, Barcelona; and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Recent group exhibitions include Altermodern, the Tate Triennial (2009); Heaven, 2nd Athens Biennale, Athens (2009); Dance with Camera, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2009); Manifesta 7, Trento, Italy (2008); and the Danish Pavilion, 51st Venice Biennale (2005).
Flash in the Metropolitan, 2006
16 mm film; color, silent, 3 min., looped
Courtesy of the artists, doggerfisher, Edinburgh; Commissioned by Spike Island; Supported by the Elephant Trust
In Flash in the Metropolitan, darkened galleries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art are momentarily lit by flash bulbs that illuminate ancient, stoic objects in the Near Eastern, African, and Oceanic collections. This fleeting, focused attention casts each passive statue in a new light; the centuries of existence embedded in each object come up against the stop-motion flash of the strobe light. The second collaboration by artists Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer, Flash in the Metropolitan is an uncommon documentary portrait of the museum’s collection, of museum atmospherics, and the experience of time and vision. A soft, deep blackness is punctuated by the appearance of each object, which illuminates the film for a matter of seconds. As the light fades to dark, shadows fill the screen, and a slight afterimage remains. Along with stationary “portraits” of each bust, statue, fragment, and ceremonial vase or totem, the film offers slow tracking shots, taking in the glass vitrines, pedestals, and other museum displays.
Nashashibi and Skaer coax motionless, reticent objects out of their withdrawn stasis, reversing the strobe light’s ability to freeze actions for photography. In the film, each flash brings the viewer face to face with an already still, mute artifact, the work of human hands centuries past, reanimated and glowing, before a brief fade to darkness, and a return to itself.
Nashashibi and Skaer began collaborating in 2005, fueled by a shared interest in each other’s work and a sense of experimentation. Their first film, Ambassador (2005), was a portrait of the British Consul General in Hong Kong. In 2008, Nashashibi and Skaer were commissioned by the Berlin Biennial to make a new work, Pygmalion Workshop, which was inspired by the Vence Chapel designed by Henri Matisse. From 2008 to 2009, they exhibited a related two-screen film, Pygmalion Event, in Tate Britain’s Art Now. Their most recent work, Our Magnolia, is a meditation on a 1940s painting by British artist Paul Nash.
Two-Minute Film Festival
In conjunction with Forum 65, Carnegie Museum of Art is presenting “A Brief History of…”: A Two-Minute Film Festival on Thursday, July 15. The museum is currently seeking submissions for the film fest. Submissions should respond in some way to the broad theme “A Brief History of…” and may be created using media (camera, camcorder, cell phone, animation program) of the filmmaker’s choice. Entries must be two minutes or less in length, include a title card, and be submitted via CD or DVD as uncompressed QuickTime files for compilation purposes. Entrants must also include a screening copy of their film—either by providing a YouTube link or a playable DVD—and a completed entry form. Submission guidelines, the entry form, and terms and conditions are available here. The deadline for submissions is June 15. The museum’s contemporary art department will review the submissions and select works to screen at the July 15 Culture Club, the museum’s conversational happy hour held on the third Thursday of the month.
The Two-Minute Film Festival audience will be encouraged to vote for their favorite film, and the Viewer’s Choice award winner will be announced at the end of the evening. Drinks and food will be available in the museum’s outdoor sculpture courtyard beginning at 7:30 p.m., and the film screening will begin at 9:30 p.m. A $10 fee includes admission to the museum galleries and to the film screening, as well as two drink tickets.
General support for the museum’s exhibition program is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Photos for this exhibition are available on Carnegie Museum of Art’s media photo website. Contact the communications office at 412.688.8690 or firstname.lastname@example.org for the access code.
Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European works from the 16th century to the present. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the physical environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our web site at www.cmoa.org.