apexart :: And the moral of the story is… Curated by Zoe Gray



And the moral of the story is…

March 18-20, 2010

Curated by Zoë Gray

An extract from the eponymous non-stop film program that took place February 4-7, 2010, as part of the year-long Morality project at Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam.

Thursday, March 18: 7-9 pm
From Flaneur to Outlaw
Presenting a range of characters on the margins of society, these films focus on people who deliberately abdicate themselves from moral responsibility, from the repressive framework of moral norms, as an act of rebellion or defiance.

Ciprian Muresan (RO, b.1977)
Dog Luv, 2009, 31’
Courtesy of the artist & galeria Plan-B, Cluj
A group of dogs gather around their leader in search of Dog Illumination. “Listen Dogs”, he begins, “if we want to understand the Humans, we have to see them at their lowest. Evil – as they call it – that’s what we study today”. He cites Disney’s 101 Dalmations and Lady and the Tramp as respectively good and bad examples of dog solidarity. In this dark puppet play, the dogs list the multiple ways that humans have developed to torture one another, and then act out a series of scenes in which they take turns to dominate and humiliate one another.

Stefan Constantinescu (RO, b.1968)
Troleibuzul 92, 2009, 8’
Courtesy of the artist
The main protagonist of Constantinescu’s film is the kind of man you hope won’t sit next to you on a tram. Surrounded by people, and talking to someone on his mobile, he is nevertheless isolated, alone in a crowd. Like his unfortunate fellow travelers, we are obliged to listen to his relentless tirade. Despite his threats, there is a rawness to his feelings that evokes a certain amount of sympathy, while the tension builds as he nears his destination.

Chim Pom (JP, est. 2005)
Super Rat, 2006, 5’
Courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo
In this typically irreverent work, the collective Chim↑Pom take to the streets of Shibuya, Tokyo’s entertainment district. They are in search of super rats – capable of surviving the strongest rat poison the city authorities can throw at them – which they catch, kill and transform into a Pikachu character. The title of the work is a pun on Superflat, the term coined by the artist Takashi Murakami to describe a contemporary Japanese aesthetic. It is a playful riposte to the global art market’s simplified commodification of Japanese-ness, against which Chim↑Pom’s works reveals a rougher form of creativity.

Valérie Mréjen (FR, b. 1969)
Dieu, 2004, 12’
Courtesy of the artist & Serge le Borgne, Paris
In Dieu, eight Israeli men and women recount their memories of the specific moments that led them to abandon their Orthodox Jewish faith. The incidents are mundane – the switching on of a light, eating hummus in a restaurant – while their impact is enormous. The frankness of the narratives heightens the sense of humor and pathos as the implications of their decisions to pursue a lay existence – often resulting in estrangement from family and community – are disclosed.

Pilvi Takala (FI, b. 1981)
Real Snow White, 2009, 9’
Courtesy of the artist
Dressed up as Disney’s Snow White, the artist tries to enter Disneyland Paris, but is repeatedly rebuffed by security guards. They explain that she is not allowed to enter as people may mistake her for the “real” Snow White. “But I thought the real Snow White was a drawing”, she says. The Disney employees remain oblivious to her point and finally oblige her to remove her costume. A simple yet powerful film that raises questions about who controls our imagination, who runs the “dream factory”, and the extent to which they will go to protect it.

Guy Ben-Ner (IL, b. 1969)
Wild Boy, 2004, 17’
Courtesy of the artist and Postmasters Gallery, NYC
Guy Ben-Ner employs his home video style in this film, creating a jungle in his own kitchen where he directs his own son, as if he were an actor, casting him as a wild child. The child learns by imitation and is offered a view into the world of ‘grown-up civilization’, acquiring language as a means of integration. The transition from a ‘wild child’ who is able to construct moral codes detached from any ‘adult’ influence, to a child welcomed in the civilized world, is an interesting aspect of children’s education, whose dynamics are complicated in this seemingly simple film.

Joost Conijn (NL, b. 1971)
Siddieqa, Firdaus, Abdallah, Soelayman, Moestafa, Hawwa and Dzoel-kifl, 2004, 41’
Courtesy of the artist
Every child eventually becomes part of a social group, but what happens if they grow up in total freedom? The seven Dutch kids in this film exist on the margins of society, living on the edge of a squatted industrial site near Amsterdam. Each day, the children undertake another voyage of exploration: they build huts, strip a caravan, find a tree. One day, they set off to visit the shelves with sweets and snacks at the local petrol station, the nearest outpost of civilization. Despite the rawness of their home, their daily life exhibits a certain poetry and beauty.


Friday, March 19: 7-9 pm
The Burden of History
History is usually written by the winners, which can lead to an over-simplification of moral choices and positions. Without lapsing into apologist or revisionist sentiments, the films in this section explore the moral complexity of the past, and the way that it is represented today.

Cyprien Gaillard (FR, b. 1980)
Cities of Gold and Mirrors, 2009, 9’
Courtesy of the artist, Laura Bartlett Gallery, London, and Bugada & Cargnel, Paris
Gaillard is fascinated by the demolition of natural and man-made monuments, and whilst there is a rebellious reveling in destruction discernible in certain works, he is actually most drawn to the beauty of failure, of entropy. Cities of Gold and Mirrors was filmed in the Mexican city of Cancún and consists of a sequence of five parts accompanied by a looped theme. The music is taken from the soundtrack of The Mysterious Cities of Gold, a French/Japanese cartoon popular in the 1980s. This series told the story of Spanish conquistadors and merged South American archaeology with science fiction. The city of Cancún, founded in 1970, offers Gaillard a landscape perpetuated by a spirit of anachronism and ruin, populated by hedonistic ‘spring breakers’, where modern hotels built of steel and glass stand upon the physical ruins of the mighty Mayan Empire.

Martha Colburn (US, b. 1971)
Myth Labs, 2008, 7’
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Diana Stigter, Amsterdam
In this remarkable animation, a combination of stop-motion, drawing and collage, Colburn dissects the history of the conquest of the American landscape. With psychedelic imagery that brings together methamphetamine addicts, police brutality, religious icons and the Pilgrim Fathers, Colburn’s work looks at the rhetoric of salvation, the settlers’ theories of Manifest Destiny and their influence on the American psyche.

Wendelien van Oldenborgh (NL, 1962)
Instruction, 2009, 30’
Courtesy of the artist and galerie Wilfried Lentz, Rotterdam
In 1947 and 1949, Dutch troops were sent to Indonesia, ostensibly to save it from the “rebels”, but primarily to protect Dutch trade in the former colony. In this work, van Oldenborgh explores military codes of ethics. Looking at historical records of the Dutch army’s behavior in Indonesia – and subsequent reactions to this still highly sensitive subject – she challenges young recruits in the officer corps with the actions of their military forerunners, through a combination of scripted and improvised discussions that blend their own words with the written words of others.

Stefanos Tsivopoulos (CS/GR, b. 1973)
The Interview, 2007, 32’
Courtesy of the artist & Galerie Jette Rudolph, Berlin
Tsivopoulos asked a BBC reporter to interview a Serbian war veteran. Using this interview as a reference, a remake was made following the transcribed script of the original interview. The work itself shows both the original and the staged interview, creating an ambiguous diptych. The work reveals uncertainties regarding the role of journalism and the transmission of truth in ‘factual’ storytelling.

Ivan Grubanov (YU, b. 1976)
A Guy I Know, 2002, 17’
Courtesy of the artist and Lock Gallery, Berlin
Grubanov’s work is frequently linked to an exploration of his own history and identity as a young Serbian artist. In this short video, Grubanov tackles the often vilified character of the mercenary, here a young man who signed up to fight with the Serbian militia in Kosovo. Giving a face to the usually anonymous soldier, while refraining from passing judgment, the work reveals the banal choices behind his moral decision to fight.

Chto Delat (RU, est. 2003)
Partisan Songspiel: A Belgrade Story, 2009, 29’
Courtesy of the artists
Chto Delat was founded in early 2003 in St. Petersburg by a workgroup of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism. Structured like an ancient tragedy, the video depicts contemporary Serbian society by means of different archetypes that embody the confrontation of political and economic systems and their respective ideologies. The ruling power (exemplified by a woman politician, an oligarch, a nationalist, and a Mafioso) encounters the oppressed (exemplified by a war veteran, a Romani woman, a worker, and a lesbian activist). A choir of ‘dead Partisans’ functions as the historical consciousness and the political conscience, commenting on the confrontation that is currently played out in many former Eastern bloc countries.


Saturday, March 20: 3-5 pm
The All-Seeing Eye
Looking at questions of surveillance, visibility, safety and voyeurism, these films explore the power and the role of the Media in shaping our attitudes to morality. They also refer to film itself, and ultimately to the moral role of the artist and filmmaker.

Julika Rudelius (DE, b.1968)
Your blood is as red as mine, 2004, 16’
Courtesy of the artist & Galerie Reinhard Hauff, Stuttgart
“What is it like to be black?” – this is just one of the direct questions that Rudelius (a white woman) puts to one of her subjects (all of whom are black men) in this short film. Asking questions that are usually considered taboo, the artist explores issues of representing the Other, and asks one man “How would you like to see yourself?” Later, one of her subjects turns the tables on her and tries to sound her out as a ‘case study’, because – as he says – she has the “average mentality of the European.”

Renzo Martens (NL, b. 1973)
Episode 1, 2003, 44’
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam
This is the first part of a trilogy in the making. Episode 1 and 3 are complete, and Martens is now working on the central element to create a trilogy reminiscent of a medieval triptych, where the central panel brings redemption and enlightenment, and counters the horrors seen on either side. Both existing episodes deal with the way in which images – as they are currently produced and consumed – do not create truth and beauty, but become instruments of power. For Episode 1, the artist traveled to the bombed out city of Grozny and visited refugee camps created by the Chechen war. Exploring his own role as a camera-wielding Westerner, and the expectations that his presence creates, his film paints a bleak picture of the dangers of both visibility and invisibility on the global stage.

Deborah Stratman (US, b. 1967)
In Order not to be here, 2002, 33’
Courtesy of the artist
An uncompromising look at the ways privacy, safety, convenience and surveillance dominate the American environment. Shot entirely at night, the film confronts the hermetic nature of white-collar communities, dissecting the fear behind contemporary suburban design: a fear based on isolation, a fear of irregularity, a fear of thought. By examining evacuated suburban and corporate landscapes, the film reveals a peculiarly 21st century hollowness, an emptiness born of our collective faith in safety and technology.

Olaf Breuning (CH, b.1970)
Home 2, 2007, 30’
Courtesy of the artist & Metro Pictures Gallery, New York
“Look at this setting! It looks like a remake of a Disney film!” exclaims the main protagonist of Breuning’s film as he enters a Papa New Guinean village. Like the video-camera wielding tourist who films everything in his path, upon seeing a traditional dance performed for his tour group he says “This is what I came for: the nice costumes, the traditions”. On having given away a wad of cash to a group of street kids in Ghana, he says “I feel like a much better person now”. Mocking the naïve, rich white tourist who thinks that he can befriend the “locals” wherever he goes, Breuning’s obnoxious clown is all too familiar, and thus makes us feel uncomfortable as we witness his worldwide political incorrectness.

Sunah Choi (KR, b. 1968)
Cheek to Cheek, 1999, 4’
Courtesy of the artist & Galerie Cinzia Friedlaender, Berlin
This short film explores the powerful effect of music combined with moving images, whilst also tapping in to our collective memory as it is constructed via film. Choi puts the classic Irving Berlin song Cheek to Cheek together with images of planes dropping bombs, of the heavy machinery of war. As we listen to those famous opening lines, "Heaven, I'm in heaven/and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak", we are reminded of the power of film to tell us what its directors want us to believe.



Please join us.
All events are free and open to the public.

apexart's exhibitions and public programs are supported in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Edith C. Blum Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, The Greenwich Collection Ltd., The William Talbott Hillman Foundation, and with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.

291 Church Street, NYC, 10013
t. 212 431 5270

Directions: A, C, E, N, R, W, Q, J, M, Z, 6 to Canal or 1 to Franklin.