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Culture Remixed: DHC/Art's Re-enactments

Posted by Sisi / March 6, 2008

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View of Harun Farocki's Deep Play (2007). 12-channel video installation. Photo by Richard-Max Tremblay.

All right. It's time to break up all the concert reviews with some art stuff. Get away from the caterwauling for a while and drop by DHC/Art in Old Montreal for a different kind of stimulation. As a disclaimer, I'd like to say that art reviews rarely (if ever) do justice to the exhibitions in question. At best, they're just tools to help you decide whether you want to drop by and give up an hour of your day. That being said, I was initially pretty tripped out by some stuff on display. And yet, there's plenty to discover in Re-enactments if you only keep an open mind. (Which truth be told applies to most contemporary art.) Essentially, Re-enactments is like a Be Kind Rewind for the art world. Six artists re-stage moments from TV and film history, ranging from Michael Jackson's child diddling trial to Jean-Luc Godard's famous tracking shot from Week End (1967).

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When it comes down to it, culture is based on the premise that everything is taken from something else. Musicians routinely remix, sample, and find inspiration from older songs; films get re-made all the time, for better or for worse. The art world is no exception. All of the artists on display in Re-enactments treat culture as a storehouse, working through its "artefacts" to suggest new meanings. Whether they're critiquing or paying homage to previous works, all the installations follow a process of questioning and discovery.

My favorite piece was Harun Farocki's Deep Play (2007), a painstaking reconstruction of the FIFA 2006 World Cup Final between Italy and France. 12 screens dissect the game in real time, showing such precise stats as peak speeds, motion traces, coach reactions, and computer-generated versions of the players. According to curator John Zeppetelli, Farocki worked with FIFA, TV channels, and several information technology companies for his project. Originally, he wanted to use 24 screens.

It blew my mind how much work went into Deep Play, and at the same time the work brought up a lot of relevant questions. Look at tabloids, for example. Do we really need to know what Britney gets at Starbucks? That Amy Winehouse has impetigo and likes the smack? For what it is, the field of useless information gathering is pretty damn sophisticated. In the same way, do I really need to know Zidane's average speed to know he's a good player? Probably not, but the information's available all the same. We're a culture obsessed with details, and I think Farocki puts the question out there: Do any of them actually make our lives better?

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With all this talk of re-enactments, a broader issue comes up: is originality dead? "Not to disparage the work of radically inventive artists, but originality is probably a myth," said Zeppetelli. So what's the impetus behind the exhibition, if not originality? "I hope that our viewers will see art as an opportunity, a category of the unknowable, and a secret space where thinking is allowed." So forget about all that psycho-babble you ever heard about this sensibility and that sensibility from ARTH 101 and just go - allow yourself to be weirded out if it comes down to that, and recognize that any reaction is better than no reaction at all.

Re-enactments: Nancy Davenport, Stan Douglas, Harun Farocki, Ann Lislegaard, Paul Pfeiffer, Kerry Tribe
DHC/Art, 451 and 468 Saint-Jean
February 22 - May 25, 2008
Curated by John Zeppetelli
Free admission

Credits:

Photo 2: Still from Paul Pfeiffer's Live From Neverland (2006). Two channel video installation, 10min 18s, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and The Project, New York.
Photo 3: Still from Kerry Tribe's Here and Elsewhere (2002). Two channel, synchronized, color DVD projection with sound, 10min 30s. Courtesy of the artist.

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