Argos, Centre for Art and Media presents Nicolas Provost, Maria Iorio & Raphaël Cuomo, 'documenta 4-6'
Nicolas Provost, 'Tokyo Giants', 2012. Courtesy the artist and Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp.
Nicolas Provost 'Plot Point Trilogy' Maria Iorio & Raphaël Cuomo 'Twisted Realism' 'documenta 4-6. Art, Media and the Antinomies of Mega-Art Events'
'Plot Point Trilogy'
The refreshing and highly unusual work of Nicolas Provost (1969) builds bridges between the visual arts, cinema and video. While playing with the jargon and narrative conventions of the Western film tradition, his audiovisual work reflects on the human condition in general and our mediatised reality in particular.
At Argos, this Brussels artist, who recently made his feature film debut with the much praised work The Invader, will be combining three medium-length video works for the first time. In the triptych entitled Plot Point Trilogy, Provost once again explores the boundaries of and overlaps between fiction and reality. He does not use found footage to do this, but – in the editing, by means of the soundtrack – manipulates everyday events (which he filmed himself) in such a way that they rival the great moments of classic Hollywood cinema. At the heart of this lies the build-up and release of tension: Provost converts probably insignificant actions into momentous theatrical actions played out against the imposing background of a great city. What is more, each of the three episodes is a formal study in its own right: the artist employs techniques taken out of context to mould 'reality' to his will.
In the first part, Plot Point (2007), Times Square in New York is the dramatic backdrop to a thriller with no storyline or defined narrative, based on Provost's observation of the activities of the NYPD. He also used a hidden camera for Stardust (2010). In this second part, Provost fuses the glorious yet ambiguous aura of Las Vegas, the gambling capital, with an exciting crime story in which a handful of Hollywood stars make an appearance. Provost shot the final part of the Plot Point Trilogy in Tokyo. This film, Tokyo Giants (2012), is soon to have its world premiere. He here presents the man in the street as a film protagonist whose reality lies somewhere between a dream and a nightmare.
In these three aesthetic reinterpretations, Provost, using seemingly insignificant raw material, not only moulds mystical spaces that compellingly absorb the viewer, but also masterfully shows that the dream-world called 'cinema' is simply a constructed parallel reality comprising clichés, technical rules and dramaturgical conventions.
Maria Iorio & Raphaël Cuomo
Since 2006, the long-term and collaborative projects of Maria Iorio (1975) and Raphaël Cuomo (1977) have formed two parallel ensembles of works: Toward a history of the vanishing present researches the economies of visibility in relation to past and present mobility regimes over the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The resulting body of works manifests divergent histories or unfinished negotiations that account for an entangled modernity.
At Argos, Maria Iorio and Raphaël Cuomo present a new constellation of the ensemble Twisted Realism, a project that started in Rome in 2008 and developed in several phases. The exhibition premieres the final version of the full-length video essay of the same title, and brings together, in an architectural display, collected documents and a newly produced series of photographs which contextualize the project.
Twisted Realism examines various 'aesthetics of reality' and the intertwined histories of architecture, migration and cinema. Drawing on several archives in Rome and Bologna, the project focuses on the reconfiguration of the urban space after WWII and its depiction in Italian cinema in the period of the 'economic miracle'.
Iorio and Cuomo revisit some shooting locations of Mamma Roma (1962), which was partly filmed in the INA-Casa Tuscolano neighbourhood in Rome. This large-scale social housing project was realised in 1950-1960 in the framework of a national plan instigated by the democratic-christian government. In this way, Pasolini's film becomes the starting point to investigate both this period, which is marked by a reorganisation of capitalism, increasing consumption and the emergence of television, and the contemporary Italian context. Twisted Realism evokes the legacies of neorealism through its instance in Italian architecture and through Anna Magnani's figure, and manifests how the Italian art cinema of the 1960s was commodified in a process of privatisation of culture and monopolisation of the mediascape, as well as how it was appropriated for writing an unifying version of the national history.
Iorio and Cuomo invent strategies for (re)appropriating cinema history and propose a convergence of past and present to question the roles and functions of cinema, its relation to political and economical power and ultimately its ability of resistance.
The exhibition Twisted Realism is supported by Pro Helvetia - Swiss Arts Council.
The project Twisted Realism has been supported by: Erna und Curt Burgauer Stiftung; George Foundation; Fonds cantonal d'art contemporain, Genève; Fonds d'art contemporain de la ville de Genève; République et Canton du Jura.
With the kind collaboration of: Centro Studi – Archivio Pier Paolo Pasolini, Cineteca di Bologna (Bologna); Archivio del Movimento Operaio e Democratico (Rome); Archivio Storico Luce (Rome); Archivio Centrale dello Stato (Rome).
'documenta 4-6. Art, Media and the Antinomies of Mega-Art Events'
At a time when Kassel is in the midst of preparations for dOCUMENTA (13), Argos takes a look back through the prism of television reporting to a key period in the history of this mega event. The documenta time-line runs parallel with that of television. The ARD company made the first television broadcast in Germany on 1st November 1954. It was on 15th July of the following year, during the Cold War, that the first documenta was held. The period from 1955 to the present reads like a story of upscaling for the masses, rooted in the consumer and entertainment culture, media proliferation and advancing populism. The only partially achieved social and artistic aims of the curators and artists, inherent to working in a format that has to reconcile all manner of paradoxes and contradictions, were another constant in this period.
If one were to draw up an account of the reception of contemporary art, one could not ignore the documenta-era from 1968 to 1977. Two documentaries by Jef Cornelis (d4 & d5) and a live broadcast by the Hessischer Rundfunk (d6) tell the story of the strangled ambitions, misunderstandings and the overriding madness of the moment.
The first three documentas, organised by its initiator Arnold Bode, showed a retrospective overview of international art that was intended to put postwar Germany back on the map. Cornelis' film Documenta 4 marked the break with what had gone before. Now it was all 'art as it happens'. A twenty-four member jury that included Bode came up with a chaotic exhibition. In 1968, the year of revolution, art was in the midst of a breakdown of authority. Cornelis' Documenta 5 unmasked the work of the curator Harald Szeemann as a consumer spectacular rather than the laboratory for art and society that had originally been envisaged. In 1977 Manfred Schneckenburger's d6 documenta 6 sailed under the flag of 'art in the media society'. During a live broadcast by the Hessischer Rundfunk such artists as Nam June Paik and Joseph Beuys found themselves in hostile territory. As far as the granting of equal rights to art and the media was concerned, and the notion of the oppositional public sphere, the only thing they could still do was make a pastiche of them.