Ahistoric Occasion: Artists Making History, at Mass Moca.... some highlights and thoughts -
Dario Robleto - this is the first time I've been into some of Dario Robleto's stuff... the stuff from the 2004 Whitney Biennial (the first time I saw his work) has left a strong impression, mostly I was boggled at the list of ingredients, I mean materials... but don't remember being especially into it. Also saw his big show at the Weatherspoon, and wasn't into that one at all, by the time of that visit the ingredients surprise was gone for me, plus the installation/space wasn't very good; but the artists I went with liked his work a lot.
At Mass Moca he has a nice, well-curated room to himself, and there are a few things here that I liked...
War Pigeon With a Message (Love Survives the Death of Cells), 2002 - it's a REAL pigeon skeleton in REAL rubble, with a REAL bullet in the rubble, and a REAL pigeon ID band around the pigeon leg... there is a little scroll, undelivered and unopened, in the pigeons "hand".
It's a simple (sweet) little sculpture... it isn't even necessary to know that the rubble is from the Berlin Wall, the bullet is from WWI, or that the pigeon ID band is WWII-era... although I do like the war mashup.
The scroll is made from "pulp composed of bone dust from a human rib cage and a shredded letter from the Civil War"; the shredded letter is from a Union wife to a Confederate General, begging for the release of her POW husband. Okay, so he did do the ingredients thing again, but he didn't go overboard... it isn't so much that it becomes distracting.
I feel a little weird about the shredding of the original letter, it seems wrong. I guess if Dario is fine with the idea of someone eventually making something from "pulp made from shredded ground Dario Robleto sculpture", it's ok? But not this sculpture, this is a nice one, use one of the overdone ones.
The Creative Potential of Disease, 2004
I like this one... if I remember correctly, it's a little one-legged self-portait doll, made by a recuperating Civil War soldier, after his right leg had been amputated; a little totem.
Dario has given him a new cast leg made from "femur bone dust and prosthetic alginate", and mended his pants with material made from modern day soldier's uniforms. I don't know what to make of Dario, is there an artist more treacly and fetishistic? I'm sort of wanting to picture him in dark cemetaries, digging up graves for future projects.
Can you imagine being on your deathbed and YOUR SON Dario Robleto visits??? Scissors in hand, cutting pieces from your hospital gown, snipping locks of hair? Shudder.
Felix Gmelin - this was very good, he had two little movies projected side by side, both apparently filmed from the back of a moving vehicle, of a kind of relay-race of people running through the streets carrying a flag, passing the flag off to each new runner. One film was obviously old, from the sixties or early seventies, and one was new. At the end of the films, the last runner veers off course into a builing, disappears for a little bit... and then re-appears on an upper floor balcony and hangs the flag. The new film is an obvious re-enactment of the old one.
Farbtest, Die Rote Fahne II (2002) is the name of the piece... meaning Color Test, The Red Flag. The old movie, the first color test, was made in Berlin by Gerd Conradt, in 1968, and the flag they are running through the streets is the red flag of Communism. The present day action, filmed in Stockholm, is meaningless. As stated on the Mass Moca website, the reenactment feels like a pale, sad shadow of the first. The flag is devoid of meaning, the re-enactment utterly lacking energy and conviction.
Felix Gmelin's father is one of the runners in the original film. Also very interesting, the credits on the '68 film list a director (Conradt), a camerman, and fourteen runners... while the 2004 re-enactment, which looks pretty much the same, listed a director (Gmelin) and cameraman, plus a camera assistant, a production assistant, an editing person, two production designers, three people listed for production, all of the runners, as well as a number of sponsor$ and supporters. Definitely, with this smart work, the label is an important part of the piece.
I can't figure out why, if there is even a reason, the original film lists fourteen runners, and the 2004 re-enactment lists fifteen.
TIME OUT... this post is getting longer than I had planned... I'll continue with more later.