Sunday, September 21, 2014

There and Everywhere - the Here and Elsewhere Exhibit at the New Museum

Wael Shawky, b. 1971 Alexandria, Egypt, The Cave (Amsterdam) 12:45 min., 2005

After a whirlwind tour of varied media art pieces on four floors, I would say that “Here and Elsewhere” lives up to the exhibit’s title in two particular video installations, exemplifying the Jean Luc Godard reference. The two videos play on both the cinema verité style (making aware the presence of the camera) as well as Godard’s canonical style (the metaphysical questioning of language, image interpretation, and reality construct of the moving image).

In The Cave (Amsterdam), artist Wael Shawky recites a long religious episode from the Qu’ran in Arabic. He strolls in a grocery store in a black tie and suit (with a ticker tape news flash transcription at bottom) with European whites shopping in the background oblivious to the significance of his religious prayer and pushing the viewer to reconsider his/her own gullibility of this faux documentary presentation.

Abdel Abidin’s music video reworking of songs commissioned by Saddam Hussein, are sung in transliterated Iraqi by English only singers, and here the piece communicates an original narrative from the Here and Elsewhere video – which is “Why is that we were not able to see and listen to such simple images? … Without any doubt, we know neither how to see nor how to hear?” The lesson: as seductive and believable video is, we must reexamine our methods of constructing reality and deriving information about “other” people and narratives from video.

Abdel Abidin, Three Love Songs, Video, Color, Sound, 8:41 min, 2010

1 comment:

  1. You are definitely right about the whirlwind of pieces on four floors!

    What I experienced was the opposite of the New Museum's intentions. I didn't read the media explanations too thoroughly so I can only speak from my impressions. It seemed to me that the curatorial objective was to be inclusive as to show what the major middle eastern artists are responding to. I liked to see the variety of artists and mediums but I'm afraid that I left the museum with a generalized and reinforced feeling that all is not well in the Middle East. I have fleeting images of the video by Wael Shawky and a couple other projects but I feel that essential details about issues being addressed become overshadowed by the multitude of works. Conflicted countries blend into each other and the many many stories told (provocative and breathtaking at times) loose their immediacy in my memory.....

    It also seemed like many of the artists were creating work for English speaking audiences, which I am not quite sure how I feel about that. That said, I like how you tied the cinema verite style into your review and picked great examples to boot. Let me ask you this: how do you feel about the constructed nature of the films you selected?