See exhibition catalogue excerpts below from Bernadette Corporation, Bill Viola, Iñigo Maglano Ovalle and Charles Atlas.

 

Bernadette Corporation, Get Rid of Yourself, 2003, 61 min, color

Bernadette Corporation, Get Rid of Yourself, 2003, video still, courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

Bernadette Corporation, Get Rid of Yourself, 2003, video still, courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

Formed in a Manhattan nightclub in 1994, the New York and Paris-based collective known as Bernadette Corporation produces films, publications and interventionist projects that challenge the capitalist system.  Adopting a quasi-corporate identity, complete with logo, the collective has appropriated contemporary entertainment modes for their own experimental purposes.  The core members, John Kelsey, Anteck Walzcak and Bernadette van Huy, compose riveting critiques of contemporary culture, globalization, identity, and celebrity.  Bernadette Corporation’s most recent work, a novel entitled Reena Spaulings (2005) was featured in this year’s 2006 Whitney Biennial.

Bernadette CorporationGet Rid of Yourself, 2003 is an hour long anti-documentary on the state of heightened global affairs.  This complex, multi-layered work connects ideas by overlapping footage of national disasters such as 9/11, the work of Islamic extremists, and the 2001 riots at the G-8 summit in Genoa, incited by the Black-Bloc, an anti-globalization extremist group.  Combining footage of sunset shots of beaches, words of the Black-Bloc, and graphic riot footage, Bernadette Corporation creates a fictional sensory experience, heightened by a collapse of time, illuminating the most disturbing images.  Fiction is layered on fiction with the montage of fashion shoot footage with rioters.  Identity issues come to the forefront as the Black-Bloc serve as a metaphor of Bernadette Corporation themselves.  This identity issue is underscored by a performance by actress Chloe Sevigny rehearsing lines of a script in a Parisian kitchen.  Sevigny plays an actress who is trying and failing to learn lines to a film, about protests–lines, one realizes, that derive from the “real” Black Bloc testimonies voiced elsewhere in the film. Profane language, the constant interchanging narration of English to French and the sound of gunshots all provide a deliberately disorienting soundtrack; one which underscores the notion that both the video itself and its subjects are ultimately ineffective in their quest for peace.

 

Bill Viola, The Passing, 1991, 54:13 min, b&w, sound

Bill Viola, The Passing, 1991, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

Bill Viola, The Passing, 1991, Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

Bill Viola is considered the world’s most celebrated video artist.  Best known for his multi media installation work, Viola creates unique videos that explore themes of temporality, spiritual cleansing, rebirth, and death. Crucial to his work is his fascination with the mysticism of the Middle Ages, as well as Eastern mysticism such as Taoism, Zen Buddhism, and Sufism.  Against this backdrop, Viola magically weaves a tapestry of images that reflect his personal life.  Like a chemist, Viola adds elements of light, water and time to standard themes of family, birth and death, in order to produce works of visionary transcendence.

The Passing, 1991, travels the terrain of the conscious, the subconscious and the desert landscapes of the Southwest, melding sleep, dreams and pre-lingual memories into a spectacular lyrical journey. As its name suggests, The Passing draws its inspiration from the ephemeral concept of temporality. Isolated sounds in this piece such as the buzz of crickets, Viola’s labored breathing, sloshing of various forms of water, the strike of a match, and the chug of a passing train, all guide the viewer in and out of a hypnotic trance.  Shot in black and white film, it is often hard to tell if it’s day or night, which works to reinforce the dream-like state. Viola’s presence manifests itself throughout the video in forms of a newborn baby, his deceased mother, his son and even as a surreal form of himself; one which transcends time and form.  Almost as if the viewer is in-utero, The Passing portrays a hauntingly beautiful exploration of the soul as if for the very first time.

Born in Queens, New York in 1951, Viola went upstate to receive his B.F.A from College of Visual and Performing Arts, Syracuse University, 1973.  From 1976-1980, Viola was the artist-in-residence at the Television Laboratory at WNET/Thirteen, New York; in 1980 he was the artist-in-residence at the Sony Corporation in Japan.  Viola is also the recipient of numerous awards, including a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1982; a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1985; and the American Film Institute’s Maya Deren Award for Independent Film and Video in 1987.  Viola’s exhibition profile is widespread throughout the world, including Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Guggenheim Berlin, Berlin Germany; the Venice Biennale; a Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Getty Museum, Los Angeles; ARC/Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Alltagszeit (In Ordinary Time), 2000, 8 min, color

Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Alltagszeit, 2001, image still courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Alltagszeit, 2001, image still courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

Over the last decade Chicago-based artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle has created a fascinating and diverse body of work that has earned him global recognition (notable group exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial in 2000 and the XXIV Biennial Internacional de São Paulo in1998).  Manglano-Ovalle has received numerous awards and fellowships including a media arts award (1997-2001) from the Wexner Center for the arts in Columbus Ohio. Manglano-Ovalle’s work has made its way to Cleveland on one other occasion prior to this exhibition, being on view in 2001 at MOCA Cleveland.  His appropriation of sources such as INS Green Cards, custom car stereos, firearms, radio broadcasts and DNA samples address topics of immigration, cultural representation, urban violence and cloning.

Alltagszeit (In Ordinary Time), 2000 explores Manglano-Ovalle’s fascination with the architectural works of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.  Filmed in Berlin, the work unfolds inside of Neue Nationalgalerie, one of Mies’ landmark glass buildings which was designed and built between 1962 and 1968. The site houses an impressive array of twentieth century art, and is situated in Berlin’s cultural center at Kemperplatz, where the ancient architecture of St. Matthew’s Church commingles  alongside the modern architecture of the Museum of Applied Arts, the Chamber Music Hall and the Berlin Philharmonic. Fittingly, the Neue Nationalgalerie is considered to be the last “modern cathedral” the van der Rohe made before his death in 1969.

This sixteen-minute piece, shot in 35mm film and transferred to video, is a manipulation of time-lapsed and real time segments, extracted from twelve hours of footage shot from dawn to dusk in the museum’s central hall.  From a single viewpoint, Manglano-Ovalle canvasses the span of one day in a beautiful glass gallery and follows the sun’s arc through the windows of the structure.  Commencing with a brilliant sunrise, Alltagszeit introduces figures throughout the day entering into various galleries, pausing to reflect on their surroundings, and then exiting.  As the day progresses, one central figure is continuously tracked throughout the work, setting the tempo for all of the other figures that dodge and weave throughout vignettes of illuminated fields and dusky corners.  With the onset of the gloaming hour, shadows elongate and eclipse beams of sunlight, culminating into a crescendo of contrasts. Set to a hypnotic electronic soundtrack by composer Jeremy Boyle, the music seamlessly shepherds the narrative on light and form.

Alltagszeit has a unique relationship to the other works in the exhibition due to its ambiguity, and natural resistance toward narrative. Hints of narrative coalesce with the central figure as a heroic protagonist, portrayed in a poetic allegory of his life manifested by the passage of daylight to darkness over the course of a single day.  Manglano-Ovalle seduces the viewer with his reductivist aesthetic and saturated color and light, creating a mesmerizing tension between lush visuals and ambient sounds, which inhibit the viewer from constructing absolute meaning.  His juxtaposition of form, light, space, time, sound, and beauty engage the viewer without requiring anything more of them.  Furthermore, the artist seeks to create an experience in which the viewer begins to ponder how they relate to the image before them.  Manglano-Ovalle encourages the viewer to interact with the work by stating, “I want them, in these architectural works that hang in space, to engage the image and recognize that their body is also part of the image and that it isn’t a projection on the wall and therefore they aren’t a neutral observer in a movie theater, a nameless observer occupying a nameless neutral coordinate from which to look at the screen or the box.  They also are figures occupying space and they can move around or inside the installation, to the back of the projection, to the front of the projection.”

 

Charles Atlas, From an Island Summer, Choreography by Karole Armitage, 1983-84, 13:04, color, sound

Charles Atlas, From An Island Summer, 1983-84, Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

Charles Atlas, From An Island Summer, 1983-84, Courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)

After first working in film, Charles Atlas became a pioneer of videodance, a genre in which original performance work is created directly for the camera. His ground-breaking early works evolved from a collaboration with dance legend Merce Cunningham, for whose dance company he served as the filmmaker-in-residence for a decade.  Since then, Atlas has collaborated with various international choreographers, dancers and performers including Leigh Bowery, Karole Armitage, Bill T. Jones and Marina Abramovic. In his videos, Atlas manifests his fascination with what he terms “narrative, psychology, dance and flights of fantasy,” resulting in delightful performances that are equivalent to time capsules of contemporary culture.

From an Island Summer, 1983-84, is a tour-de-force of motion, dance and 1980’s New York City.  Atlas’s “docu-narrative” follows choreographer Karole Armitage and her dancers along the boardwalks of Coney Island, through Union Square and all the way to the streets of Times Square.  Filmed in two segments, “August 27th, Coney Island” performs first for the viewer.  Three dancers on the beach boardwalk all dressed in yellow and red dance to samba music.  The dancers are pieced in and out of frames, performing movements that rhyme with the rhythm of the music’s staccato beats. In the next scene the dancers are interspersed amongst pedestrians eating corndogs or swinging their legs on various rides.  All the while, the hand-held camera has become another member of the troupe, finding dance in the motion of the performers and swirling park rides.

The second segment, “August 25th, New York City,” opens with one of the dancers coming out of a subway station in Union Square, and then the camera scans newspaper headlines and colorful comic books.  As the electro-punk bagpipe music sets in, the camera shows the dancers grooving in a dance studio with mirrors.   Again, the camera attaches itself to the movement, twisting, turning and bouncing around with every step of the dancers.  As the dancers conclude their performance on a fire escape, the scene switches to Times Square to show movie marquees, neon signs and dated fashion styles.  Similar to the glowing neon signs, the dancers kick and spin and call attention to themselves like only a classic New Yorker can.

Atlas was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1949.  Side-stepping the traditional path of academia, Atlas dropped out of Swarthmore in the late 60s to collaborate on pieces with renowned choreographers like Merce Cunningham and Michael Clark.  In 1989, the Sao Paolo Museum and FestRio in Brazil presented a major retrospective of his work. Atlas’s films and videos have been exhibited around the world, including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and three Bessie Awards, as well as grants from the Jerome Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Atlas lives and works in New York City and Paris.

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