Sunday, November 30, 2014

Did That Photography Just Wink At Me?

If what you are looking at is one of Robert Wilson’s video portraits it is well within the realms of possibility. Best known for his experimental theatre productions, his 1976 production of Einstein on the Beach has been described as “one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th century”, he excels in using technology across a variety of Art forms.

Over the last 10 years Wilson has created 50 plus of his video portraits. Utilizing the talents of animals and human performers these portraits blur the movement of video with the captured moment of still photography. From the black panther in Ivory to the porcupine in Boris, from Johnny Depp to Princess Caroline of Monaco, at first glance they all look like well crafted photographs. But if you stay with them for a while subtle changes in lighting, small movements like the blink of the eyes or a shift in position to relieve pressure animate the works whilst not disturbing the pose. With musical and an oft time disjointed spoken narratives as scores they impose a Zen like aesthetic, an application of the brakes to the clatter of 21st Century. An invitation to stop and smell the roses.

Wilson’s latest addition to this body of work employs Lady Gaga as the subject. There are four videos in this series; “Flying” rooted in the ancient Japanese rope bondage of Shibari is an outlier to the other three which reference well known works of art. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s portrait of Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière (1806), Jacques-Louis David’s famed painting The Death of Marat (1806), and Andrea Solari’s The Head of Saint John the Baptist (1507) are as famous in art circles as Lady Gaga is in pop culture.

But this juxtaposition has received a mixed response with Hyperallergic’s Joseph Nechvatal saying “His (Robert Wilson) uncompromising rigorous minimalism here has apparently, and most sadly, yielded to the BS/PR management typical of big money culture.” Whereas in response to Lady Gaga’s tweet “I know my artiness + musical goals may seem lofty, but there is a POP STAR IN THE LOUVRE, right next to the Mona Lisa” MTV’s Buzzworthy quipped “tell Mona we said: Hay, girl, hayyyyy.”

The Lady Gaga Portraits are currently on show until the 12th of April as part of Washington DC’s Hirshhorn Museum’s exhibition Days of Endless Time. And if you’re fleet of foot they can also be seen at Galerie Thomas Schulte booth at Art Basel Miami Beach from the 4th to the 7th of December.

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