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The Savage Transparence

sept 22 - Nov 12 2011

Video and film works by Kelly Richardson, David Gatten, Adad Hannah, Daniel von Sturmer, Ignas Krunglevicius, Edith DeKyndt, and Jan Peter Hammer


Young men go walking in the woods,

Hunting for the great ornament,

The pediment of appearance.

They hunt for a form which by its form alone,

Without diamond—blazons or flashing or

Chains of circumstance,

By its form alone, by being right,

By being high, is the stone

For which they are looking:

The savage transparence.

~ Wallace Stevens


YoungProjects presents a group exhibition devoted to conceptual and minimalist practices by seven of today’s most celebrated video and film artists.


The title is taken from “The Pediment of Appearance” by Wallace Stevens, which is included in his semi narrative, Transport to Summer. In this poem, a group of young men enter some woods 'Hunting for the great ornament, The pediment of appearance.' But as they move through the natural world in an effort to find the architectural equivalent of “pure form,” or the ultimate pediment, they encounter instead the 'savage transparence' as Stevens describes it.


In Stevens's world, this savage transparence is in effect the pure form they are looking for, only it is not form in the sense of a frozen distillation of the real as they hoped to find. Rather it is a void, an impossibility and an emptiness that is impossible to see. That paradox leads to a crisis of reason; to instability and fear, which ultimately turns inward. They come face to face with what Stevens calls, “the rude source of human life.” As Stevens writes of them later in the poem, 'they go crying/The world is myself, life is myself.' Thus it is not pure form that reveals itself to be the progenitor of all possibilities, but the mind itself.


Each of the twelve works in the show suggest a facet of Stevens’s poem, where a kind of purity of form is achieved through a direct engagement with both, the nature of moving imagery and various sculptural practices. The artists included, Kelly Richardson, David Gatten, Daniel von Sturmer, Ignas Krunglevicius, Jan Peter Hammer, Edith Dekyndt and Adad Hannah hail from different corners of the world (England, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Belgium and Germany respectively), and often differ in conceptual strategies, yet they all share an interest in conceptual and minimalist practices, where there is a direct, tangible relationship to the medium and its subject matter. That often leads to an emphasis on the ephemeral, and slight-of-hand phenomena. Yet there’s also a distinct anti-illusionist approach to each artist’s practice.


The UK based, Canadian artist Kelly Richardson works with advanced, 3D, digital modeling tools to create hyperreal landscapes of the imagination. Her practice is less interested in drawing distinctions between the real and the virtual than it is in engaging with, and interrogating, the way in which landscape traditions valorize and idealize nature. Her mastery of software programs allows her to make them look as “real” as possible, yet always with clear artificial enhancements. As David Jager writes, “Looking at a video piece by Richardson we are in fact looking into a maze of representations and simulations: digitally enhanced landscapes that are more lusciously real than reality, and genre-based send-ups of cultural tropes replete with references that tug at our memories and senses in ways that are often difficult to identify.”


Books, literature and words are often at the heart of David Gatten’s film and video works, but not necessarily as vehicles for storytelling, but as marks, signs and recordings. For Gatten, that interest belies a broader preoccupation with both, the ways in which we produce meaning and the ways in which various mediums are used for recording. Thus film is particularly important to Gatten’s practice, in that it is emulsion-based and he often allows natural elements (such as the ocean) to embed—or record—markings of its own. As Ed Halter of the Village Voice writes, “Gatten is equally influenced by Stan Brakhage as Ludwig Wittgenstein.” His film, How to Conduct a Love Affair (2007) is a deeply personal, and moving attount of a relationship between two people, which is composed of words from a 1924 instructional text. It also features close-ups of dried tea bags sewn together into a quilt and found objects that, as Gatten explains, “reflect light from the past and cast shadows on the future.”


Gatten is considered one of the most important experimental film artists working today. He’s also a Visiting Associate Professor and Distinguished Filmmaker in Residence in the Program in the Art of the Moving Image at Duke University, and his films are in the permanent collections of the British Film Institute, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and numerous major institutions.


Based in Oslo, Norway, Ignas Krunglevicius was academically trained in music and is well versed in the cinematic. Both interests come to the fore in his video practice, which often uses little more than words and sound. His installation, Interrogation, which is included in the show, presents the actual transcript of a pastor’s wife who gained national attention due to public speculation about her motives and mental health. She achieved notoriety when she shot her husband to death. Yet by stripping the medium down to nothing more to the interplay between the interrogator and suspect—through words only—Krunglevicius manages to portray the victimization of a murderer, while objectifying the viewer at the same time. We ultimately become the interrogator, both of the suspect and the medium itself.


Krunglevicius’s works have won awards at film festivals (such as his recent win at the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Art Festival) and art festivals alike. He was recently awarded with the Sparebankstiftelsen DnB NOR Stipendutstilling Art Prize in Norway.

Much of Adad Hannah’s work is concerned with the complex relationship between static and moving images; between painting and film; between photography and painting. In many cases he uses tableau vivants as a model for his staged videos. Yet in each case, it’s not just the figures that are the central protagonists, but the camera itsef—always searching, interrogating and recording. Room 112 (2004) was shot in an upscale hotel in Montreal. It shows a succession of people inhabiting the same hotel room, some interacting and others alone. A woman interviews a man, a couple fights, a guitarist plays a song, two kids play video games and someone sends text messages. The two-screen project moves towards and away from narrative at the same time as the models try to hold their poses. Until finally, a figure is interviewed in bed, holding both screens at once.


Born in New York, Adad Hannah lives and works in Montreal. His work has been shown in biennials and museums worldwide, including Prague Biennial 5, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and Zendai MoMA, Shanghai.


Daniel von Sturmer was born in Auckland, New Zealand and is considered one of the most important artists working in Australia at the moment. He too is known for working with the most modest materials and phenomena: water in glass, a scrunched plastic bag, a roll of tape, which are often moved in and out of relation to one another in a kind of perpetual testing. Yet at the same time, he’s known for creating exquisitely sculpted spaces and actions that find a delicate balance between duration and drama; between representation and tangible objects; between the obvious and the profound. As Justin Paton writes: “von Sturmer’s art fulfills John Cage’s description of art as a practice that ‘sobers and quiets the mind and encourages a state that is spiritual in nature but a the same time connected to everyday life.’”


von Sturmer’s work has been included in the permanent collections of Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne; the Chartwell Collection, New Zealand, and many more.


Based in Belgium, Edith DeKyndt bases her artistic practices (which include sculpture, photography and installation) in the common, the trivial and the banal. Yet, even in the most happenstance situations, or the most ephemeral of conditions, her work belies a rigorous, often painstaking experimentation. But the results are always something extraordinary and often moving. Her works have been shown in institutions worldwide including: MoMA, New York; 5th Biennal of Moving Image, Belgium; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Centre National d'art contemporain, France; Contemporary Art Museum, Hiroshima, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; and many more.


Jan Peter Hammer was born in Kirchheim unter Teck, Germany. He studied Painting and Sculpture, in 1999 he moved to NYC where he attended courses at the New School’s Film Theory department and graduated in Fine Arts at the Hunter College. In 2004 he moved back to Berlin where he currently lives and works. During his time in New York he created an archive called The Boy Scout Project where he put together and cross-linked a database of several thousands specific images with each other in order to create a allegorical portrait of the US. He further developed different ways of display in order to enter different layers of the archive. His main concern has been, however, the work’s narrative structure. His videos, films and synchronized slideshows open up a literary context. His film Oblivious 2005, inspired by Maurice Blanchot’s almost-fiction L'Attente l'oubli, tells the story of a mature couple, who in retrospect contemplate their failed relationship. Some other films, such as Der Ausflug (The Getaway), 2007 and wachbleiben (stay awake), 2007 share this storytelling dimension. His slideshow Wormhole (2008), which is included in the show, is a multi-layered narrative, which sheds light on the shifting meaning of social status, desire and memory.


Hammer is represented by Supportico Lopez and has exhibited regularly both in Germany and abroad. Selected solo shows: Elizabeth Dee, 2004; Gallery Meerrettich, Berlin 2006; Supportico Lopez, Berlin 2010.


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