Wednesday, 31 October 2007

New Work UK: Trust Yourself, video screening, Whitechapel Art Gallery Daniella Saul

Entering the Whitechapel auditorium, a cramped space on the temporary gallery site, there seemed to be an excited anticipation in the air. The scheduled evening screening was to be a curated programme of a cross- section of new video works by artists based in the UK emphatically titled “Trust Yourself.” With the emphasis resting on “newness” it came as quite a surprise to see that of the eight “new” works, half had already been widely seen in the UK over the past three years, in exhibitions and at well attended art fairs such as Zoo Art Fair. Instead, “Newness” seemed here to have become more of an individual curatorial approach to seeing and evaluating recent work. Lina Dzuverovic, the curator, also director of the contemporary art agency Electra pointed out honestly at the end of the programme that she had not previously seen the works she had been asked to select for the programme. While this already stands as a mild criticism (since Electra works on many projects with artists working in various media, not just video) are we to assume then, in an unexpected, ironic twist on the title “Trust Yourself” that as well as being a conceptual approach to exploring the works, we should also trust ourselves to trust Dzuverovic, the curator as an authority to mediate our reception to “new” video work?
The selection of work explores through the notion of trust ideas of address, such as who is speaking and to whom, language as a block to understanding and constituting meaning and the construction of narrative, what we believe and how we relate to constructed stories.Yaron Lapid’s “You Have Not Found His Riddle” (2003) takes a documentary approach to discovering how an elderly Israeli couple copes with the husband’s depression. He is unnervingly at his most animated as he recounts several of his failed suicide attempts due to various technical oversights. What led to this reality is lost in favour of the immediacy and intensity these experiences produce. Translation, understanding and meaning are explored in more direct fashion in Chia- En Jao’s “Father’s Tongue” (2007) and Flávia Müller Medeiros’ “Fight The Enemy Abroad So We Don’t Have To Fight Them At Home” (2005) Jao stages a humorous literal version of Chinese Whispers, whispering words in Mandarin that recall one of his recent encounters in Paris to a non-Chinese speaker. The speaker’s concerted effort results in the correctly pronounced words appearing in English intermittently on the screen, the rest as ellipses. Michelle Deignan’s two works “Il Cittadino” (2007) and “Red Cheeks” (2006) explore the disjunction between conventional modes of address in the media from “trustworthy” sources such as television journalism and the information they relay to us through humorous anecdotal stories.
These works explore and expose the processes we go through as viewers on seeing them in diverse and often humorous guises. Dzuverovic, on the other hand, unwittingly adds a new dimension to what it means to “trust yourself” as she might do well in future to remember the names of the artists that feature in shows she curates.

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