The constant Sisyphus – Julian Rosefeldt in The Hague

Gallery West and Volkspaleis (in the Grote Kerk) – The Hague
21 July to 17 August 2012
open daily from 11:00 to 17:00
free entrance

Finally an exquisite exhibition in The Hague. In two locations, at 10 minutes walk distance, West presents works of Julian Rosefeldt at a good portion not to leave any doubt that he is one of the top contemporary artists. His video installations are technically perfect, filmed primarily in 16mm. He uses a cinematic narration cut down to the limited duration of an art video while keeping the content and the aesthetic value at full blast. At gallery West we see the work Trilogy of Failure containing three separate video installations: the soundmaker, stunned man and the perfectionist. The camera, rarely static,  moves in an hypnotic perpetual slow motion left-right-left, somehow like a clock ticking wherein things happen and things change if you sit to look. The artist does know how to absorb our attention to  actions that are bluntly pointless. It is after all the depiction of the constant Sisyphus; the human destiny. But so what if there is no point in our actions? We are here anyway so we do; otherwise we should sit and meditate until perhaps this as well becomes Sisyphean. Whatsoever, the sense of pointlessness is overrun but the perseverance of the characters even though that too leads to failure. From pointlessness to failure, one would think that you come out depressed; but not. The stories are told with humour and are set up with details like a night butterfly buzzing around the head of the pilot in the cock-pit and cut-edge boyish characters fiddling around with home made machinery.

At the Volkspaleis we walk in the Asylum. This is a complex installation of nine gigantic screens hanging in the also gigantic dark space of the Gothic church Grote Kerk (big church or main church). The useless movements of groups of people this time brings us to the known thematic of absurdity topped with the destiny of specific inhabitants of this earth that lost their place either by force either by utopic confusion. In the Asylum  the movements are more a job than a time filling game. The pointlessness expands to the work floor, to what officially has a purpose: producing something and bring in the daily bread. So yes, the absurdity of the human existence is total; at some point one group after the other in all nine screens stops working and sings a no words tone. Is this the moment of truth or a scream for help? After that slowly comes an end; until the show starts again: African men walking between ancient Greek/Roman statues  selling dancing dolls, Muslim women cleaning a cactus field with vacuum cleaners, newspaper sellers trying to pile up their papers in a wind draft, sexy Thai girls de-dusting Buddha statues etc.

P.S.  My brain/ guts capacity on the day that I visited the Volkspaleis was just enough to fit the Asylum so I did not manage to focus on the works presented at the back of the church. Maartje Wortel, ROLU collective and Jorg Heiser forgive me. I may try again though.

card and image courtesy Grote Kerk, West & the artists
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