Tom Burr's elegant arrangements of sculptures and objects aim for romantic desire at the same time as being cerebral events. His works act out past discourses on sculpture - from site-specificity and contextuality through theatricality - in different variants. In his films, Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevicius deals with the experience of collective - usually Eastern European - history. He constructs (past and future) history out of active relations with individual biographies.
Tom Burr / Deimantas Narkevicius
Tom Burr: Moods
“Moods”, be they specific or vague, depend on various factors that may be individual just as they may reflect a particular time or generation, as described by Amanda Lear in a line from her song Alphabet “this is my alphabet for the children of my generation, ... each generation may find a different mood to their world...”. Tom Burr’s elegant arrangements of sculptures and objects aim for romantic desire at the same time as being cerebral events. At the Secession, Burr is showing new and recent works, loosely grouped and dividing the space into several areas.
At the center stands a group of stage- or cage-like objects situated somewhere between sculpture, runway, boutique decor, and set design. They recall the sculptural spaces of Alberto Giacometti and Cady Noland, or Pierre Klossowski’s Barres Paralleles. The pedestals are integral parts of these sculptures, which are not site-specific and which could be installed anywhere. Burr plays with the idea of an artist producing an autonomous artwork in his studio. Other sculptures, screens, and horizontal foldable objects that seem to refer to the human figure, also appear to be transportable and adaptable to any given situation. They are constructions of subjectivity, display, and instability (of identity, objects, and spaces). The installations include a number of objects such as items of clothing, mirrors, chairs, and books—aesthetic surrogates whose function is to anchor past moods and feelings, or to put on show memory as such.
Tom Burr’s works act out past discourses on sculpture—from site-specificity and contextuality through theatricality—in different variants. In this way, the question of the author can again be asked without wishing to return to the figure of the artist as a director genius. Instead, it deals with the uncertain foundations of identity and unstable subjectivity. A number of characters are invoked, from the painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler (to whom the titles Arrangement in Black and Blue and Arrangement in Black and Red refer, and whose mention in turn invokes John Singer Sargent and Oscar Wilde), Jean Cocteau, and Truman Capote through Jack Kerouac, who is the subject of a series of collages.
Nestling in the folds of a suit by the Austrian designer Helmut Lang worn by the artist in the mid 1990’s, we also find Jean Cocteau’s book Thomas the Impostor, creating the effect or suggestion of an autobiographical reference, at the same time as eluding this possibility. In the form of Jack Pierson, Burr creates an alter ego by referring back to a joint show by the two artists at Galerie Neu in Berlin in 2006, a reference complicated by the introduction of a further “Jack,” namely Jack Kerouac. The territory of literary and popular references is charted, but so is the collapse of the resulting figure “Jack” under the weight of references that do not stand the test of scrutiny. In the collages, the portrayal of Jack Kerouac already becomes a farce, an act of self-mockery.
The fictitious nature of the author is also apparent in the Vanities: an objet trouvé, a make-up table with faded mirrors, and two perspex constructions situated somewhere between literal interpretation of this piece of furniture and total abstraction. Playing on the multiple meanings of the word, the perspex vanities recall a real make-up table in a Vienna hotel room, a nostalgic room suited to writing letters, maybe at this table, where the lonely writer encounters himself in the mirror as a stranger. The Proustian atmosphere of the room, used beforehand and afterwards by someone else, reminds the guest that his identity in this place is a borrowed one, as it can be cast off again, like a suit.
TOM BURR, born 1963, lives and works in New York.
The exhibition takes place with the kind support of: Hotel Altstadt Vienna
Deimantas Narkevičius: Among the things we touched
In his films, Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevičius deals with the experience of collective—usually Eastern European—history. In the politically and culturally turbulent situation in Eastern European states since the 1990s, Narkevičius currently sees a vacuum in which ideological self-awareness is characterized neither by a reflection of one’s own history, nor by any kind of vision for the future. Narkevičius constructs (past and future) history out of active relations with individual biographies. In this way, the protagonists of his films reconstruct and interweave their memories with a linear concept of history generally accepted as true. Narkevičius explores the medium of film using a documentary approach, in which, for example, interviews heard as voices-off comment on photographs or drawings, and diverse film techniques and narrative styles are used simultaneously. At the Secession, Deimantas Narkevičius is showing four of his most recent films.
The Role of a Lifetime (10 min., 2003) brings together three different but interwoven elements: firstly, an interview with the controversial British filmmaker Peter Watkins recorded in Lithuania, where Watkins lived in self-imposed exile for several years; secondly, landscape drawings of Lithuania’s Gruto Park, where various socialist sculptures of the postwar era are kept; and thirdly, Narkevičius combines these elements with found footage by an amateur filmmaker showing everyday life in Brighton. In The Role of a Lifetime, the interview with Watkins on the sound level is joined and related to the drawings and the found footage on the visual level. While Watkins speaks programmatically of the relation between reality and fiction in his work, Narkevičius underlines the political nature of his words, partly by focusing on the broken remnants and their lost representative function, and partly by using found footage to question the representative value of the documentary approach per se.
Once in the XXth Century (8 min., 2004) shows the installation of a Lenin statue with an applauding audience on a public square in Vilnius. Using Lithuanian television footage that originally documented the dismantling of the Lenin monument in the 1990s, Deimantas Narkevičius edited a new film of the monument being erected. After the majority of the socialist monuments were removed at the end of the last century, either by spontaneous popular action or by the state, they now testify, as fleeting and dematerialized traces, to a collective but unfulfilled belief in an alternative society. In his video, Deimantas Narkevičius uses this “reversal of images” to bring the cult of personality and the public installation of ideological symbols, which have long since become history, into the present. In formal terms, Once in the XXth Century is an ironic commentary on the recurring scenes of ideological manifestations in various political epochs, and on the resulting iconoclasm as a radical measure of historical correction.
In Revisiting Solaris (18 min., 2007), Donatas Banionis, the lead actor from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972), appears once more, over forty years later, as the astronaut Chris Kelvin. Tarkovsky, who based the film on Stanislav Lem’s futuristic novel of the same name, left the last chapter out of his movie. This chapter tells how the astronaut sets foot on the surface of the planet Solaris shortly before ending his space mission. Narkevičius combines the story of the astronaut with a series of photographs made in 1905 by Mykalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis, a Lithuanian symbolist painter and composer.
In contrast to the futuristic concept of Revisiting Solaris, in Disappearance of a Tribe (10 Min., 2005), Narkevičius tells the life story of his dead father, assembled as a film consisting of private photographs. The pictures bear witness to a kind of communal life and experience which today appears to have been lost.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog (German/English) with a text by Jennifer Allen.
DEIMANTAS NARKEVIČIUS, born 1964 in Utena (Lithuania), lives and works in Vilnius.
The exhibition takes place with the kind support of: Sharp
Image: Deimantas Narkevičius, Once in the XX Century, Filmstill, 2004
Wiener Secession, Association of Visual Artists
Friedrichstraße 12 - Wien
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. / Thursday 10.am. – 8 p.m. Thursday, April 26, 2007 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.