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March 07/ WM issue #1: ELEPHANT CEMETARY, ARTIST'S SPACE, NEW YORK

March 07/ WM issue #1: ELEPHANT CEMETARY, ARTIST'S SPACE, NEW YORK
Tina Schulz: Untitled (Von Heir Aus 1), 2006

Elephant Cemetery

Curated by Christian Rattemeyer

 

Terence Gower & Pedro Reyes, David Maljkovic, Kirsten Pieroth, Pablo Pijnappel, Falke Pisano, Pia Rönicke, Jamie Shovlin, Tina Schulz, Mario Garcia Torres, Kerry Tribe.

 

BY JAN VAN WOENSEL

for White Hot – New York

 

“Paris, London, Rome, Athens, and Peking are all built upon the cemeteries of elephants, and I believe that not one historic metropolis has been able to thrive and endure beyond the area of migration and transhumance of mammoths in the quaternary age, an area thus found to delimit the zone of human civilization.”  (Blaise Cendrars)

 

Blaise Cendrars, (1887-1961) pseudonym of Frédéric Louis Sauser, can be considered as an emblematic figure throughout the group exhibition “Elephant Cemetery”, composed by the Artists Space in-house curator Christian Rattemeyer. A leading figure in the literary avant-garde, Cendrars was a Swiss poet and novelist, who spent much of his life traveling restlessly. Cendrars did his best to fictionalize his past. He often used his cosmopolitan wanderings as a way to discover inner truths. In coherence with the exhibition on display, Cendrars liked to modify the truth to the benefit of creating a more appealing story. Unquestionably, this must have caused endless complications for his biographers to distinguish fact from fiction. But honestly, what else is better than a great memory of someone’s journey, even if the reality of such an event was altered to embellish its artistic qualities?

 

If really relevant within this context, Artists Space’s exhibition is less difficult to value upon its true or false patterns. The introductory text states that “Elephant Cemetery” deals with sculpture and with the roles presence and absence play as generators of meanings. However the show has a far more intriguing metaphorical level that should be brought to our attention.

 

Instead of focusing on sculpture’s meaning, the exhibition is about our role in deciphering it; about human scale and the human need to remember. The exhibition should be effectively described as an exaggerated state of presence and absence using formal languages of monumentality and operations of memory. Somehow contradictory with the primary intentions of the show, this notion of mental dislocation is most successfully exhibited to the audience through video works by David Maljkovic and Kerry Tribe, and a slide show by Mario Garcia Torres.

 

MAY 25th, 2045

 

In a subtle and charming way, David Maljkovic’s video Scene for a New Heritage I (2005) tackles the grand narratives of former ’s ideology. Responding to a memorial for the World War II Partisan Hospital, completed in 1981 by Vojin Bakiç in Petrova Gora Park in and severely damaged in the Yugoslav war, the artist subjects the structure to a double removal. Maljkovic sets the time of his intervention in the future (on Tito’s birthday) thus distancing the action from our present time and in turn rendering the monument more distant in time than its 25-year life span would otherwise suggest. This discrepancy between the actual versus the indicated time, and the initial purpose of the monument versus its current (2045’s) state, might seem exaggerated. Nevertheless it should be seen as a critical speculation on how today’s youth is estranged from their national heritage and history, and how, in the case of Maljkovic’s video, memory is relied on with an attempt to give new meaning to these sites.

 

Kerry Tribe’s video projection titled Florida (2003) also responds to a site; the eponymous “Sunshine State” often chosen as a place for retirement. As the video slowly tracks through mangrove forests and swamplands, the soundtrack features the voices of several retirees who describe otherworldly places. Tribe’s piece elaborates on an emotional shifting of presence (life) into post-presence (memory) as these people talk about loss of spouses and friends, events during their life and their current perception of death. In this respect, the idyllic Florida scenery supports the inert tragedy in everybody’s life. This is compounded by Florida being one of ’s states most heavily affected by hurricanes and tornadoes. Although the piece accentuates a specific geographic location, the theme reaches beyond any physical border.  The video drags the audience into a state of self-awareness concerning human temporariness in relation to one’s environment.

 

BLAME IT ON TIME

 

One of the most intriguing art works displayed at “Elephant Cemetery” is a slide projection by Mario Garcia Torres entitled Blame it on Time (2006). The work documents Torres’ search for the ruins of Paramount Studio’s reconstruction of the secret laboratory town Los Alamos, for Roland Joffé’s 1989 film Fat Man and Little Boy. The film reenacts ‘The Manhattan Project’ of the United States National Laboratory in , which was founded during the World War II effort to develop the atomic bomb. Similarly to Kerry Tribe’s video, Torres’ slides focus on the landscape of the former film set. The images evoke confusion between the still existing secret laboratory and the 1989 film set. The artist’s reverie during his fruitless search is someway ironic and obviously alludes to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945: “A town cannot be washed away just like that”.

[Edited by Vanessa Albury]

 

 

Elephant Cemetery

Curated by Christian Rattemeyer

 

Terence Gower & Pedro Reyes, David Maljkovic, Kirsten Pieroth, Pablo Pijnappel, Falke Pisano, Pia Rönicke, Jamie Shovlin, Tina Schulz, Mario Garcia Torres, Kerry Tribe.

 

Artists Space

38 Greene Street, 3rd Floor

New York, NY 10013

www.artistsspace.org

 

Jan 18th – March 10th, 2007

whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.
 

Jan Van Woensel

Jan Van Woensel is an independent curator, art critic and musician based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the curatorial advisor of Lee Ranaldo and Leah Singer and curator of Studio Philippe Vandenberg. Van Woensel is professor at CCA, dept of Curatorial Practice in San Francisco; Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles; and NYU, dept of Art and Art Professions in New York. Office Jan Van Woensel, a team of assistant curators supervised by Van Woensel, works with international clients such as private collectors, art galleries and artists on exhibitions. Contact: office.janvanwoensel@gmail.com http://icpabackstage.blogspot.com 

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