Adel Abdessemed at David Zwirner

by Art Fag City on May 7, 2009 · 32 comments Reviews


Adel Abdessemed, Telle mère tel fils, 2008, Airplanes, felt, aluminum, metal, Image Size: 27 x 4 x 5 meters / 88.6 x 13.12 x 16.4 feet. Image: David Zwirner

Does anyone like Adel Abdessemed's exhibition at David Zwirner?  Past endless Facebook debate, and slams from major publications, the only positive reviews I've read (if you can call them that) are descriptive.  “Algeria native and raw conceptualist takes his cues from ‘passion and rage,'” says the Village Voice. The L Magazine similarly writes, “In his spectacular and unsettling works, Abdessemed prods our tolerance for violence, suspense and absurdity.”

I suppose the show achieves the prodding that The L Magazine describes, but it doesn’t amount to much.  Spanning all three Zwirner galleries in Chelsea, readers who haven't seen the show will likely recognize a much distributed image of Abdessemed's three knotted airplanes.  Probably the most interesting aspect of the piece comes from its reference to the poster for the 1980 Hollywood comedy Airplane! In the context of the gloom and doom of the show, I’m fairly certain the nod is unintentional.

As a whole, the show speaks to the subject of war and instinctual violence, so perhaps in this sense, the base quality of the exhibition can be rationalized. J.G. Ballard may provide a more sophisticated touchstone for this artist, but outside of his novel Crash, conflict typically involves more than just the physical. Reflecting this narrow focus, the worst piece at Zwirner, an 1 1/2 minute video loop of pitbulls, snakes, spiders and other dangerous animals fighting with each other easily attracts the most attention. As a general rule of thumb I tend not to respond to this kind of art  — having the shit scared out of me due to an empathetic response isn’t what I look for from an artist — though up until the press response it hadn’t occurred to me to discuss the piece. I still don’t see how this is different from any other inane Youtube video, but for the fact that it’s on display at Zwirner.

The evil music box made from the oil can, soccer ball of razor wire, and rock climber photograph with an actual “death” rock adjacent all tap into the same war and survival themes in the show.  But in each case, the meaning of the piece is delivered upon impact.  Only two short videos of amputees and non-amputees suspended over a tarp from a rope provide greater satisfaction. Here the physical struggle doesn’t seem quite so contrived, though it may be calculated. It's not a perfect departure point of course — I'm still left cold by the work — but it would certainly provide more substantive subject matter for discussion.

Related:
Howard Halle at Time Out New York on Adel Abdessemed
Roberta Smith at The New York Times on Adel Abdessemed
Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine on Adel Abdessemed Plus read the debate on his facebook page.

Update: A positive review from Berin Golonu at Art in America!

  • http://www.twocoatsofpaint.com Sharon

    Really looking forward to seeing Zwirner’s Alice Neel show next week, which approaches survival from a different direction.

  • http://www.twocoatsofpaint.com Sharon

    Really looking forward to seeing Zwirner’s Alice Neel show next week, which approaches survival from a different direction.

  • http://www.twocoatsofpaint.com Sharon

    Really looking forward to seeing Zwirner’s Alice Neel show next week, which approaches survival from a different direction.

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    Berin Golonu seemed to like the show in Art in America: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/reviews/adel-abdessemed-review-david-zwirner-rio

    Me, I’m left cold by work that tries so hard to impress.

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    Berin Golonu seemed to like the show in Art in America: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/reviews/adel-abdessemed-review-david-zwirner-rio

    Me, I’m left cold by work that tries so hard to impress.

  • http://www.unutterable.org Giovanni

    Berin Golonu seemed to like the show in Art in America: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/reviews/adel-abdessemed-review-david-zwirner-rio

    Me, I’m left cold by work that tries so hard to impress.

  • ak

    I’m not sure I understand all the fuss… Usine was actually interesting, hardly the most repulsive thing, or the “worst piece”.. i think it’s the worst piece only in the context of unnecessary political correctness. The worst pieces were the 2 photographs (one of Abdessemed stretched across Lincoln on the sidewalk, and the other of his family, with the girls walking the skeleton dogs)–these were bad because they are conceptually non-existent and visually uninteresting. The rest of the show at least had one or the other, to some degree (concept or physical/aesthetic presence). Ken Johnson called Usine the most evil artwork he’s ever seen (“I think that Adel Abdessemed’s video of animals fighting and killing each other (at Zwirner), is the most appalling and evil work of art I have ever seen. Michael Vick went to prison for far less. Why so little outrage? This is beyond just bad art”). This is the most ridiculous art-related commentary I’ve encountered recently. Usine is provocation for provocation’s sake, even possibly “evil,” IF Abdessemed showed the “whole thing,” “satisfying” the audience by exposing us to the gruesome spectacle I imagine it descending into, but he cuts it, edits it, and loops it. I didn’t even find it especially provocative, and not because I’m desensitized. I don’t think Ryan Trecartin, for example, is evil in any way, but for sake of comparison: I find his installation in YTJ more “evil” than Usine because it promotes idiocy and forces itself onto viewers, whereas at least Usine, at minimum, offers viewers the space to create their own meaning, which apparently, is near universal disgust. I also found Abdessemed’s video of the guy without arms “painting” with his feet, suspended from a helicopter, more “evil” than Usine. Only because of the apparent “stir” Usine is causing is it worth talking about this much. But it is interesting to see the reactions, the apotheosis of this being, probably, Ken Johnson’s. As seen on Jerry Saltz’s FB :(

  • ak

    I’m not sure I understand all the fuss… Usine was actually interesting, hardly the most repulsive thing, or the “worst piece”.. i think it’s the worst piece only in the context of unnecessary political correctness. The worst pieces were the 2 photographs (one of Abdessemed stretched across Lincoln on the sidewalk, and the other of his family, with the girls walking the skeleton dogs)–these were bad because they are conceptually non-existent and visually uninteresting. The rest of the show at least had one or the other, to some degree (concept or physical/aesthetic presence). Ken Johnson called Usine the most evil artwork he’s ever seen (“I think that Adel Abdessemed’s video of animals fighting and killing each other (at Zwirner), is the most appalling and evil work of art I have ever seen. Michael Vick went to prison for far less. Why so little outrage? This is beyond just bad art”). This is the most ridiculous art-related commentary I’ve encountered recently. Usine is provocation for provocation’s sake, even possibly “evil,” IF Abdessemed showed the “whole thing,” “satisfying” the audience by exposing us to the gruesome spectacle I imagine it descending into, but he cuts it, edits it, and loops it. I didn’t even find it especially provocative, and not because I’m desensitized. I don’t think Ryan Trecartin, for example, is evil in any way, but for sake of comparison: I find his installation in YTJ more “evil” than Usine because it promotes idiocy and forces itself onto viewers, whereas at least Usine, at minimum, offers viewers the space to create their own meaning, which apparently, is near universal disgust. I also found Abdessemed’s video of the guy without arms “painting” with his feet, suspended from a helicopter, more “evil” than Usine. Only because of the apparent “stir” Usine is causing is it worth talking about this much. But it is interesting to see the reactions, the apotheosis of this being, probably, Ken Johnson’s. As seen on Jerry Saltz’s FB :(

  • ak

    I’m not sure I understand all the fuss… Usine was actually interesting, hardly the most repulsive thing, or the “worst piece”.. i think it’s the worst piece only in the context of unnecessary political correctness. The worst pieces were the 2 photographs (one of Abdessemed stretched across Lincoln on the sidewalk, and the other of his family, with the girls walking the skeleton dogs)–these were bad because they are conceptually non-existent and visually uninteresting. The rest of the show at least had one or the other, to some degree (concept or physical/aesthetic presence). Ken Johnson called Usine the most evil artwork he’s ever seen (“I think that Adel Abdessemed’s video of animals fighting and killing each other (at Zwirner), is the most appalling and evil work of art I have ever seen. Michael Vick went to prison for far less. Why so little outrage? This is beyond just bad art”). This is the most ridiculous art-related commentary I’ve encountered recently. Usine is provocation for provocation’s sake, even possibly “evil,” IF Abdessemed showed the “whole thing,” “satisfying” the audience by exposing us to the gruesome spectacle I imagine it descending into, but he cuts it, edits it, and loops it. I didn’t even find it especially provocative, and not because I’m desensitized. I don’t think Ryan Trecartin, for example, is evil in any way, but for sake of comparison: I find his installation in YTJ more “evil” than Usine because it promotes idiocy and forces itself onto viewers, whereas at least Usine, at minimum, offers viewers the space to create their own meaning, which apparently, is near universal disgust. I also found Abdessemed’s video of the guy without arms “painting” with his feet, suspended from a helicopter, more “evil” than Usine. Only because of the apparent “stir” Usine is causing is it worth talking about this much. But it is interesting to see the reactions, the apotheosis of this being, probably, Ken Johnson’s. As seen on Jerry Saltz’s FB :(

  • ak

    I’m not sure I understand all the fuss… Usine was actually interesting, hardly the most repulsive thing, or the “worst piece”.. i think it’s the worst piece only in the context of unnecessary political correctness. The worst pieces were the 2 photographs (one of Abdessemed stretched across Lincoln on the sidewalk, and the other of his family, with the girls walking the skeleton dogs)–these were bad because they are conceptually non-existent and visually uninteresting. The rest of the show at least had one or the other, to some degree (concept or physical/aesthetic presence). Ken Johnson called Usine the most evil artwork he’s ever seen (“I think that Adel Abdessemed’s video of animals fighting and killing each other (at Zwirner), is the most appalling and evil work of art I have ever seen. Michael Vick went to prison for far less. Why so little outrage? This is beyond just bad art”). This is the most ridiculous art-related commentary I’ve encountered recently. Usine is provocation for provocation’s sake, even possibly “evil,” IF Abdessemed showed the “whole thing,” “satisfying” the audience by exposing us to the gruesome spectacle I imagine it descending into, but he cuts it, edits it, and loops it. I didn’t even find it especially provocative, and not because I’m desensitized. I don’t think Ryan Trecartin, for example, is evil in any way, but for sake of comparison: I find his installation in YTJ more “evil” than Usine because it promotes idiocy and forces itself onto viewers, whereas at least Usine, at minimum, offers viewers the space to create their own meaning, which apparently, is near universal disgust. I also found Abdessemed’s video of the guy without arms “painting” with his feet, suspended from a helicopter, more “evil” than Usine. Only because of the apparent “stir” Usine is causing is it worth talking about this much. But it is interesting to see the reactions, the apotheosis of this being, probably, Ken Johnson’s. As seen on Jerry Saltz’s FB :(

  • http://davidmcbride.net David

    Being upset by wanton cruelty to animals isn’t unnecessary political correctness. While I don’t go for provocation, I’m never upset by it- but if this isn’t heinous, then what on earth is? I’m an artist and I’m pretty allergic to self-righteousness (well, except maybe my own) and pretty interested by works that dispute what people think is “right”; but I’m also a human being and think the way we treat animals is more profound than a cultural construction.

  • http://davidmcbride.net David

    Being upset by wanton cruelty to animals isn’t unnecessary political correctness. While I don’t go for provocation, I’m never upset by it- but if this isn’t heinous, then what on earth is? I’m an artist and I’m pretty allergic to self-righteousness (well, except maybe my own) and pretty interested by works that dispute what people think is “right”; but I’m also a human being and think the way we treat animals is more profound than a cultural construction.

  • http://davidmcbride.net David

    Being upset by wanton cruelty to animals isn’t unnecessary political correctness. While I don’t go for provocation, I’m never upset by it- but if this isn’t heinous, then what on earth is? I’m an artist and I’m pretty allergic to self-righteousness (well, except maybe my own) and pretty interested by works that dispute what people think is “right”; but I’m also a human being and think the way we treat animals is more profound than a cultural construction.

  • ak

    This isn’t a wonderful, beautiful gesture, but it isn’t heinous. What is is people and governments in power manipulating populations and killing, abstractly, from a distance, for more power, more leverage, resources, political gain, lying about their motives. People in a position of power taking advantage of people who can’t defend themselves. The mom who used myspace to manipulate her daughter’s rival, creating a fake profile of a cute boy, explicitly trying to traumatize this girl, succeeding, leading her to commit suicide. That woman is heinous. Art isn’t that important, really. And that in my relatively vanilla existence I have lived in a building where they were raising roosters for cockfights and pitbulls for dog fights–not that this is especially relevant, but, shit happens. Usine isn’t the mindless violence that it has been portrayed to be. It’s hardly a masterpiece, but I really don’t understand why this is such a big deal when no one cares about anything else, unless, of course, it is sensational, something that can be simplified for the news ticker. A generalization, not directed towards anyone in particular. I like generalizations. I am not defending the work as much as I am questioning the criticism–probably most of the people who find the piece vile also love Barry Obama, who just keeps on keepin on with the wars, who just re-engaged “Af-Pak”. That is worse. At least Barry’s nice about it. Outside of 19th St, btw 10th and 11th, people are suffering at the hands of other people and Abdessemed pitting a handful of frisky animals against each other, for a purpose, if, ultimately, only his own, assuming he thought it would yield something of value, doesn’t strike me as such a horror.

  • ak

    This isn’t a wonderful, beautiful gesture, but it isn’t heinous. What is is people and governments in power manipulating populations and killing, abstractly, from a distance, for more power, more leverage, resources, political gain, lying about their motives. People in a position of power taking advantage of people who can’t defend themselves. The mom who used myspace to manipulate her daughter’s rival, creating a fake profile of a cute boy, explicitly trying to traumatize this girl, succeeding, leading her to commit suicide. That woman is heinous. Art isn’t that important, really. And that in my relatively vanilla existence I have lived in a building where they were raising roosters for cockfights and pitbulls for dog fights–not that this is especially relevant, but, shit happens. Usine isn’t the mindless violence that it has been portrayed to be. It’s hardly a masterpiece, but I really don’t understand why this is such a big deal when no one cares about anything else, unless, of course, it is sensational, something that can be simplified for the news ticker. A generalization, not directed towards anyone in particular. I like generalizations. I am not defending the work as much as I am questioning the criticism–probably most of the people who find the piece vile also love Barry Obama, who just keeps on keepin on with the wars, who just re-engaged “Af-Pak”. That is worse. At least Barry’s nice about it. Outside of 19th St, btw 10th and 11th, people are suffering at the hands of other people and Abdessemed pitting a handful of frisky animals against each other, for a purpose, if, ultimately, only his own, assuming he thought it would yield something of value, doesn’t strike me as such a horror.

  • ak

    This isn’t a wonderful, beautiful gesture, but it isn’t heinous. What is is people and governments in power manipulating populations and killing, abstractly, from a distance, for more power, more leverage, resources, political gain, lying about their motives. People in a position of power taking advantage of people who can’t defend themselves. The mom who used myspace to manipulate her daughter’s rival, creating a fake profile of a cute boy, explicitly trying to traumatize this girl, succeeding, leading her to commit suicide. That woman is heinous. Art isn’t that important, really. And that in my relatively vanilla existence I have lived in a building where they were raising roosters for cockfights and pitbulls for dog fights–not that this is especially relevant, but, shit happens. Usine isn’t the mindless violence that it has been portrayed to be. It’s hardly a masterpiece, but I really don’t understand why this is such a big deal when no one cares about anything else, unless, of course, it is sensational, something that can be simplified for the news ticker. A generalization, not directed towards anyone in particular. I like generalizations. I am not defending the work as much as I am questioning the criticism–probably most of the people who find the piece vile also love Barry Obama, who just keeps on keepin on with the wars, who just re-engaged “Af-Pak”. That is worse. At least Barry’s nice about it. Outside of 19th St, btw 10th and 11th, people are suffering at the hands of other people and Abdessemed pitting a handful of frisky animals against each other, for a purpose, if, ultimately, only his own, assuming he thought it would yield something of value, doesn’t strike me as such a horror.

  • Art Fag City

    @David I worry this makes me a bad person, but I really didn’t find the video heinous. I suppose part of this is because I chose to assume no animal (except for the frog) actually died in the making of the film. The video made me uncomfortable, but I have much lower threshold for seeing violence of any kind than most people. Mostly it annoyed me for its provocation for provocation’s sake (I don’t agree with AK on this point).

    @AK Personally, I think this political correctness both you and Jerry Saltz note isn’t quite the right term for the reaction, though I understand the point. I believe David’s concern is genuine, but a lot of what I read on facebook and heard elsewhere feels like misplaced residual outrage at the state of art. Conceptual art increasingly asks too much from its audience (in my opinion), so rightly or wrongly people feel empowered by jumping on it when it fails. (As a side note I’d like to mention that I think we really need a new term for conceptual art. Conceptual implies something smart. Not all of it is, particularly not the bad stuff.)

    In any event, despite a well crafted argument, Usine still captures the “worst” spot for me. Watching a pit of dangerous animals duking it out for a minute just isn’t very interesting and I don’t think the editing adds enough to redeem it (though I agree with you that it’s better he edited out the finish to these fights). I’d take an inert photograph over a video employing as “provocation for provocation’s sake” any day.

    I will note however, that I wouldn’t twice compare it to an inane youtube video. I realized as I was taking the subway home tonight that that kind of sentiment is the 2009 equivalent of “I could do that”. It’s a useful statement to no one. I simply found the choices made in that video obvious, the outcome predictable.

    If it makes a difference, although significantly better, I also didn’t care for Mircea Cantor’s Deepature at MoMA in 2005.

    (Comment edited to properly characterize AK’s response)

  • Art Fag City

    @David I worry this makes me a bad person, but I really didn’t find the video heinous. I suppose part of this is because I chose to assume no animal (except for the frog) actually died in the making of the film. The video made me uncomfortable, but I have much lower threshold for seeing violence of any kind than most people. Mostly it annoyed me for its provocation for provocation’s sake (I don’t agree with AK on this point).

    @AK Personally, I think this political correctness both you and Jerry Saltz note isn’t quite the right term for the reaction, though I understand the point. I believe David’s concern is genuine, but a lot of what I read on facebook and heard elsewhere feels like misplaced residual outrage at the state of art. Conceptual art increasingly asks too much from its audience (in my opinion), so rightly or wrongly people feel empowered by jumping on it when it fails. (As a side note I’d like to mention that I think we really need a new term for conceptual art. Conceptual implies something smart. Not all of it is, particularly not the bad stuff.)

    In any event, despite a well crafted argument, Usine still captures the “worst” spot for me. Watching a pit of dangerous animals duking it out for a minute just isn’t very interesting and I don’t think the editing adds enough to redeem it (though I agree with you that it’s better he edited out the finish to these fights). I’d take an inert photograph over a video employing as “provocation for provocation’s sake” any day.

    I will note however, that I wouldn’t twice compare it to an inane youtube video. I realized as I was taking the subway home tonight that that kind of sentiment is the 2009 equivalent of “I could do that”. It’s a useful statement to no one. I simply found the choices made in that video obvious, the outcome predictable.

    If it makes a difference, although significantly better, I also didn’t care for Mircea Cantor’s Deepature at MoMA in 2005.

    (Comment edited to properly characterize AK’s response)

  • ak

    Paddy, your position, while I don’t agree with everything, makes sense. Just to clarify, I didn’t think it was “provocation for provocation’s sake”–I thought it would be this if it had shown the “finish.”

    I realized later, after having read Berin Golonu’s AiA review and recalling the Zwirner info packet on Rio, that I had actually interpreted Usine (actually Usine in combination with the reactions it illicited) as I think Abdessemed thought it might be, ideally–meaning in the context of unsettling people and having them think about violence on other people, specifically asymmetrical engagements (generally, however this assessment came to be, “whites” with more power engaging “browns” with less). Or for Abdessemed, I’m sure, Arabs generally and their interactions with the West. Or even Algerians and the French, which was a definite on the overturned car (Practice zero tolerance (retournée)). I’m really not that racially sensitive, so I’m surprised by myself. But I kinda actually now feel manipulated.

    But I’m not reading this take in some murmurs on Jerry Saltz’s page that mention that Abdessemed is Algerian (or more recently Berber)–I think they are implying his race or nationality or culture have something to do with this piece (more so than the historical and cultural circumstances of his “people” informing his own concerns), but rather something more inherent.

    I am reminded of Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers, a great film.

    And, immediately, even before I saw Usine, I thought of Michael Haneke and Benny’s Video, which is also worth seeing, I think, but you probably won’t like it. The (SPOILER:) pig being slaughtered, for whatever reason I won’t try to interpret, is more provocative. I also felt irritated by the reactions to Haneke’s Funny Games when his own remake was released, so maybe I’m an evil person, because Funny Games is much more upsetting than Usine… and, lastly, thinking about Funny Games made me realize that, “art-house” film audiences and critics, as far as I can tell, are more open-minded and less self-righteous, to use David’s appropriate characterization. Because some people really like Haneke and even Funny Games and it’s definitely more sadistic than Usine.

    I don’t know, Usine seems to have at least pushed some people to stand for something, which is worthwhile.

    bye

  • ak

    Paddy, your position, while I don’t agree with everything, makes sense. Just to clarify, I didn’t think it was “provocation for provocation’s sake”–I thought it would be this if it had shown the “finish.”

    I realized later, after having read Berin Golonu’s AiA review and recalling the Zwirner info packet on Rio, that I had actually interpreted Usine (actually Usine in combination with the reactions it illicited) as I think Abdessemed thought it might be, ideally–meaning in the context of unsettling people and having them think about violence on other people, specifically asymmetrical engagements (generally, however this assessment came to be, “whites” with more power engaging “browns” with less). Or for Abdessemed, I’m sure, Arabs generally and their interactions with the West. Or even Algerians and the French, which was a definite on the overturned car (Practice zero tolerance (retournée)). I’m really not that racially sensitive, so I’m surprised by myself. But I kinda actually now feel manipulated.

    But I’m not reading this take in some murmurs on Jerry Saltz’s page that mention that Abdessemed is Algerian (or more recently Berber)–I think they are implying his race or nationality or culture have something to do with this piece (more so than the historical and cultural circumstances of his “people” informing his own concerns), but rather something more inherent.

    I am reminded of Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers, a great film.

    And, immediately, even before I saw Usine, I thought of Michael Haneke and Benny’s Video, which is also worth seeing, I think, but you probably won’t like it. The (SPOILER:) pig being slaughtered, for whatever reason I won’t try to interpret, is more provocative. I also felt irritated by the reactions to Haneke’s Funny Games when his own remake was released, so maybe I’m an evil person, because Funny Games is much more upsetting than Usine… and, lastly, thinking about Funny Games made me realize that, “art-house” film audiences and critics, as far as I can tell, are more open-minded and less self-righteous, to use David’s appropriate characterization. Because some people really like Haneke and even Funny Games and it’s definitely more sadistic than Usine.

    I don’t know, Usine seems to have at least pushed some people to stand for something, which is worthwhile.

    bye

  • ak

    Paddy, your position, while I don’t agree with everything, makes sense. Just to clarify, I didn’t think it was “provocation for provocation’s sake”–I thought it would be this if it had shown the “finish.”

    I realized later, after having read Berin Golonu’s AiA review and recalling the Zwirner info packet on Rio, that I had actually interpreted Usine (actually Usine in combination with the reactions it illicited) as I think Abdessemed thought it might be, ideally–meaning in the context of unsettling people and having them think about violence on other people, specifically asymmetrical engagements (generally, however this assessment came to be, “whites” with more power engaging “browns” with less). Or for Abdessemed, I’m sure, Arabs generally and their interactions with the West. Or even Algerians and the French, which was a definite on the overturned car (Practice zero tolerance (retournée)). I’m really not that racially sensitive, so I’m surprised by myself. But I kinda actually now feel manipulated.

    But I’m not reading this take in some murmurs on Jerry Saltz’s page that mention that Abdessemed is Algerian (or more recently Berber)–I think they are implying his race or nationality or culture have something to do with this piece (more so than the historical and cultural circumstances of his “people” informing his own concerns), but rather something more inherent.

    I am reminded of Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers, a great film.

    And, immediately, even before I saw Usine, I thought of Michael Haneke and Benny’s Video, which is also worth seeing, I think, but you probably won’t like it. The (SPOILER:) pig being slaughtered, for whatever reason I won’t try to interpret, is more provocative. I also felt irritated by the reactions to Haneke’s Funny Games when his own remake was released, so maybe I’m an evil person, because Funny Games is much more upsetting than Usine… and, lastly, thinking about Funny Games made me realize that, “art-house” film audiences and critics, as far as I can tell, are more open-minded and less self-righteous, to use David’s appropriate characterization. Because some people really like Haneke and even Funny Games and it’s definitely more sadistic than Usine.

    I don’t know, Usine seems to have at least pushed some people to stand for something, which is worthwhile.

    bye

  • ak

    Paddy, your position, while I don’t agree with everything, makes sense. Just to clarify, I didn’t think it was “provocation for provocation’s sake”–I thought it would be this if it had shown the “finish.”

    I realized later, after having read Berin Golonu’s AiA review and recalling the Zwirner info packet on Rio, that I had actually interpreted Usine (actually Usine in combination with the reactions it illicited) as I think Abdessemed thought it might be, ideally–meaning in the context of unsettling people and having them think about violence on other people, specifically asymmetrical engagements (generally, however this assessment came to be, “whites” with more power engaging “browns” with less). Or for Abdessemed, I’m sure, Arabs generally and their interactions with the West. Or even Algerians and the French, which was a definite on the overturned car (Practice zero tolerance (retournée)). I’m really not that racially sensitive, so I’m surprised by myself. But I kinda actually now feel manipulated.

    But I’m not reading this take in some murmurs on Jerry Saltz’s page that mention that Abdessemed is Algerian (or more recently Berber)–I think they are implying his race or nationality or culture have something to do with this piece (more so than the historical and cultural circumstances of his “people” informing his own concerns), but rather something more inherent.

    I am reminded of Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers, a great film.

    And, immediately, even before I saw Usine, I thought of Michael Haneke and Benny’s Video, which is also worth seeing, I think, but you probably won’t like it. The (SPOILER:) pig being slaughtered, for whatever reason I won’t try to interpret, is more provocative. I also felt irritated by the reactions to Haneke’s Funny Games when his own remake was released, so maybe I’m an evil person, because Funny Games is much more upsetting than Usine… and, lastly, thinking about Funny Games made me realize that, “art-house” film audiences and critics, as far as I can tell, are more open-minded and less self-righteous, to use David’s appropriate characterization. Because some people really like Haneke and even Funny Games and it’s definitely more sadistic than Usine.

    I don’t know, Usine seems to have at least pushed some people to stand for something, which is worthwhile.

    bye

  • Art Fag City

    Hey AK, I updated my comment so it properly reflects what you wrote. Sorry about that.

    I will attempt to check out Michael Haneke and Benny’s video (no promises – it sounds like something that might kill me to watch). I’m also reminded of Gaspar Noé’s I Stand Alone and Irréversible, and the 2000 film Baise Moi, each of which tell a story of the morally corrupt through violence. To be clear I hate each of those works with a unique passion (with the possible exception of Baise Moi, its documentation of French tensions with Alegerians redeemed the movie for me and seem particularly salient to this conversations). However, I do acknowledge each as good films (I have not yet seen the entirety of irreversible though, so take that statement with a grain of salt).

    Also – thanks to both you and David for your comments, and Giovanni for the link. I know you found the conversation prompted by this piece to be amongst the most ridiculous, but this particular discussion has been really fruitful for me.

  • Art Fag City

    Hey AK, I updated my comment so it properly reflects what you wrote. Sorry about that.

    I will attempt to check out Michael Haneke and Benny’s video (no promises – it sounds like something that might kill me to watch). I’m also reminded of Gaspar Noé’s I Stand Alone and Irréversible, and the 2000 film Baise Moi, each of which tell a story of the morally corrupt through violence. To be clear I hate each of those works with a unique passion (with the possible exception of Baise Moi, its documentation of French tensions with Alegerians redeemed the movie for me and seem particularly salient to this conversations). However, I do acknowledge each as good films (I have not yet seen the entirety of irreversible though, so take that statement with a grain of salt).

    Also – thanks to both you and David for your comments, and Giovanni for the link. I know you found the conversation prompted by this piece to be amongst the most ridiculous, but this particular discussion has been really fruitful for me.

  • Art Fag City

    Hey AK, I updated my comment so it properly reflects what you wrote. Sorry about that.

    I will attempt to check out Michael Haneke and Benny’s video (no promises – it sounds like something that might kill me to watch). I’m also reminded of Gaspar Noé’s I Stand Alone and Irréversible, and the 2000 film Baise Moi, each of which tell a story of the morally corrupt through violence. To be clear I hate each of those works with a unique passion (with the possible exception of Baise Moi, its documentation of French tensions with Alegerians redeemed the movie for me and seem particularly salient to this conversations). However, I do acknowledge each as good films (I have not yet seen the entirety of irreversible though, so take that statement with a grain of salt).

    Also – thanks to both you and David for your comments, and Giovanni for the link. I know you found the conversation prompted by this piece to be amongst the most ridiculous, but this particular discussion has been really fruitful for me.

  • ak

    I obviously only speak for myself but only Ken Johnson’s reaction (THE MOST EVIL ARTWORK EVER) was ridiculous.

    The rest was indeed fruitful.

    what a beautiful day.

  • ak

    I obviously only speak for myself but only Ken Johnson’s reaction (THE MOST EVIL ARTWORK EVER) was ridiculous.

    The rest was indeed fruitful.

    what a beautiful day.

  • ak

    I obviously only speak for myself but only Ken Johnson’s reaction (THE MOST EVIL ARTWORK EVER) was ridiculous.

    The rest was indeed fruitful.

    what a beautiful day.

  • ak

    I obviously only speak for myself but only Ken Johnson’s reaction (THE MOST EVIL ARTWORK EVER) was ridiculous.

    The rest was indeed fruitful.

    what a beautiful day.

  • http://davidmcbride.net David

    Hey, you two are wrapping it up but I’ve been working a lot and haven’t been able to post, so it may be stale.

    I’d had a few before I wrote my first post, so the language was strong- but that’s not a backpedal. I’m unconvinced by ak’s lucid befuddlement over the criticism of the piece. Maybe that lucidity is all the more troubling. I like Haneke quite a bit, and von Trier- I’m a sucker for dark stories and believe there’s more truth in the depths than anywhere else. To explain where I’m coming from. But I do always object to real animals being killed on film- Andre Rublev is an amazing movie, but there are scenes that reveal a creative impulse that I can’t square- or a creative lapse.

    But this piece isn’t comparable to that stuff- it’s a snuff film. Even preferring tough subject matter, and maybe because of that, I think that distinction is paramount. In this thread, the animals in the video have been described as ‘frisky’ and ‘dangerous’, but that’s anthropomorphic- really, they’re dumb beasts that are frightening to people, and they’re terrified. (Okay, that’s pretty anthropomorphic too- their stress levels are extremely high.) So ‘only’ the frogs died- that doesn’t make me feel okay about what the survivors had to experience. If there’s such a thing as cruelty to animals, this is it.

    I’m not privy to the Saltz discussion, but I’d like to know what artwork is more evil. Maybe there are a few, but not enough for me to agree that Ken Johnson’s assertion is ridiculous.

    Finally, ak, when you evoke the power abuse and inequalities that the work supposedly addresses, you situate the work as essentially a critique of injustice, and something that functions at a critical remove from the things you’re describing. I see it the other way around, that the work is representative of injustice, and without critical distance. Because those are real animals. To me, it’s more of a situation where look, the world is pretty screwed up, the United States are debating what level of discomfort qualifies as torture, and even contemporary artists treat life so cheaply as to present snuff films as worthwhile and interesting. That’s a problem. ak say’s art isn’t that important, and I ain’t gonna argue with that, but it’s a straw man’s statement.

    thanks for good talk!

  • http://davidmcbride.net David

    Hey, you two are wrapping it up but I’ve been working a lot and haven’t been able to post, so it may be stale.

    I’d had a few before I wrote my first post, so the language was strong- but that’s not a backpedal. I’m unconvinced by ak’s lucid befuddlement over the criticism of the piece. Maybe that lucidity is all the more troubling. I like Haneke quite a bit, and von Trier- I’m a sucker for dark stories and believe there’s more truth in the depths than anywhere else. To explain where I’m coming from. But I do always object to real animals being killed on film- Andre Rublev is an amazing movie, but there are scenes that reveal a creative impulse that I can’t square- or a creative lapse.

    But this piece isn’t comparable to that stuff- it’s a snuff film. Even preferring tough subject matter, and maybe because of that, I think that distinction is paramount. In this thread, the animals in the video have been described as ‘frisky’ and ‘dangerous’, but that’s anthropomorphic- really, they’re dumb beasts that are frightening to people, and they’re terrified. (Okay, that’s pretty anthropomorphic too- their stress levels are extremely high.) So ‘only’ the frogs died- that doesn’t make me feel okay about what the survivors had to experience. If there’s such a thing as cruelty to animals, this is it.

    I’m not privy to the Saltz discussion, but I’d like to know what artwork is more evil. Maybe there are a few, but not enough for me to agree that Ken Johnson’s assertion is ridiculous.

    Finally, ak, when you evoke the power abuse and inequalities that the work supposedly addresses, you situate the work as essentially a critique of injustice, and something that functions at a critical remove from the things you’re describing. I see it the other way around, that the work is representative of injustice, and without critical distance. Because those are real animals. To me, it’s more of a situation where look, the world is pretty screwed up, the United States are debating what level of discomfort qualifies as torture, and even contemporary artists treat life so cheaply as to present snuff films as worthwhile and interesting. That’s a problem. ak say’s art isn’t that important, and I ain’t gonna argue with that, but it’s a straw man’s statement.

    thanks for good talk!

  • http://davidmcbride.net David

    Hey, you two are wrapping it up but I’ve been working a lot and haven’t been able to post, so it may be stale.

    I’d had a few before I wrote my first post, so the language was strong- but that’s not a backpedal. I’m unconvinced by ak’s lucid befuddlement over the criticism of the piece. Maybe that lucidity is all the more troubling. I like Haneke quite a bit, and von Trier- I’m a sucker for dark stories and believe there’s more truth in the depths than anywhere else. To explain where I’m coming from. But I do always object to real animals being killed on film- Andre Rublev is an amazing movie, but there are scenes that reveal a creative impulse that I can’t square- or a creative lapse.

    But this piece isn’t comparable to that stuff- it’s a snuff film. Even preferring tough subject matter, and maybe because of that, I think that distinction is paramount. In this thread, the animals in the video have been described as ‘frisky’ and ‘dangerous’, but that’s anthropomorphic- really, they’re dumb beasts that are frightening to people, and they’re terrified. (Okay, that’s pretty anthropomorphic too- their stress levels are extremely high.) So ‘only’ the frogs died- that doesn’t make me feel okay about what the survivors had to experience. If there’s such a thing as cruelty to animals, this is it.

    I’m not privy to the Saltz discussion, but I’d like to know what artwork is more evil. Maybe there are a few, but not enough for me to agree that Ken Johnson’s assertion is ridiculous.

    Finally, ak, when you evoke the power abuse and inequalities that the work supposedly addresses, you situate the work as essentially a critique of injustice, and something that functions at a critical remove from the things you’re describing. I see it the other way around, that the work is representative of injustice, and without critical distance. Because those are real animals. To me, it’s more of a situation where look, the world is pretty screwed up, the United States are debating what level of discomfort qualifies as torture, and even contemporary artists treat life so cheaply as to present snuff films as worthwhile and interesting. That’s a problem. ak say’s art isn’t that important, and I ain’t gonna argue with that, but it’s a straw man’s statement.

    thanks for good talk!

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