Contemporary culture is largely built on the premise that everything is borrowed from something else.
Musicians routinely sample, cover and find inspiration in old songs, while filmmakers reference and re-make classic movies. The art world is no different.
In DHC/Art’s newest exhibition, Re-enactments, six artists re-stage diverse moments in film and television history. By treating culture as a storehouse to draw from, they suggest new meanings and fresh relevance to the source material.
Important themes include the role played by the media in shaping our collective memory and the separation between individual and communal experience.
A highlight of the exhibition is German film artist Harun Farocki’s Deep Play (2007), a multi-screen installation that re-stages the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final between France and Italy as a “laboratory of football.” The viewer is engulfed in a sea of information that includes peak speeds, ball trajectory, and computer-generated versions of the players.
A parallel can be drawn between Deep Play and gossip rags. In both cases, it is questionable whether we actually benefit from the level of information gathering that technology affords us. To enjoy the game, is it really necessary to see Zidane’s motion traces? Does knowing that Britney Spears likes Starbucks help us appreciate her music?
A gentler counterpoint to Farocki’s work is Kerry Tribe’s Here and Elsewhere (2002), a short film inspired from French director Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville’s experimental TV series France/tour/detour/deux/enfants (1978). In the original, Godard led a string of interviews with two schoolchildren about controversial subjects like truth, space and time.
In Here and Elsewhere, a precocious 11 year-old girl, Audrey, is asked similar questions by a man off-camera. He is Peter Wollen, her father and a noted film historian who has written extensively about Godard. Tribe’s piece can be seen as a celebration of subjectivity as Audrey considers philosophical questions for the first time.
Other installations reference the media circus surrounding Michael Jackson’s child molestation allegations, Tomas Gutierrez Alea’s Cuban classic Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), late 18th century films, and the cinematic experience itself.
For curator John Zeppetelli, the goal of Re-enactments is simple. “I hope that our viewers will see art as an opportunity, a category of the unknowable, and a secret space where thinking is allowed,” he said in an interview last week.
In sum, Re-enactments is an invitation to salute, ponder, and critique the ways in which we use culture. An underlying sense of wonder runs through each artist’s work, encouraging viewers to satisfy their curiosity by opening their minds.
Re-enactments runs Feb. 22 – May 25 at 451 and 468 Saint-Jean, Old Montreal. Free admission. www.dhc-art.org