The artists commissioned to make new work for Frieze Film were: Ed Atkins, Lutz Bacher, Anthea Hamilton, Judith Hopf and Katarina Zdjelar.
Ed Atkins Delivery To The Following Recipient Failed Permanently (2011)
‘Delivery To The Following Recipient Failed Permanently is a high definition motion-picture event. Depth, both physical and emotional, is phony here: the back of a head as the most opaque, resistant thing I can think of, the most unsympathetic; smoke as an explication of a particularly morbid kind of speech, like barium quaffed before an x-ray to illuminate those darkened paths inside you; words that seem affectionate, caring– but which are in fact exploitative tropes conveyed with a cool impunity to anyone who’ll listen. Music! – especially for you.’
Ed Atkins, August 2011
Ed Atkins’ videos often spin allegorical stories about the material nature of film itself. If a traditional camera creates a ‘bodily’ kind of record (in the sense hat it reproduces a record of events onto actual celluloid), then what is it that a digital camera does? Atkins’ work can prompt the uncanny feeling that digital technology deals in images that are undeniably present but naggingly absent; footage verifies the event, but its record is lost in a cloud of code. Considering his interest in animating the inanimate, it is fitting that Madame Tussaud, the Swiss artist and entrepreneur known for her waxwork likeness, drifts through Atkins’ 2010 body of work Death Mask.
Atkins’ video seeks to physically affect the audience, to manifest inside the skulls, guts and lungs of the viewers – aided by the Pinocchio-desires of the technology, and the aching, subtextual desires of the artist.
Lutz Bacher What are You Thinking? (2011)
From pulp fiction to discarded photographs and dates Americana, the provenance of Lutz Bacher’s diverse materials – at once familiar and bizarre – is often the thrift store. She does relatively little in the way of altering these rescued pieces, but the effect packs a punch: images may be enlarged or text may find itself captioning a surprising new picture, as in Sex With Strangers (1986), in which pornographic images are paired with captions written in the style of a scientific study of rape. In contrast to her New York-based contemporaries, such as those often bracketed as the ‘Pictures Generation’, Bacher is less invested in the clinical dissection of mass-produced and widely disseminated commercial imagery, instead introducing distortion and interference into apparently innocent images.
Her work s often unflinching, as with a six-hour real-time recording of a major operation the artist had to remove a tumor. And though disparate, some of these far-flung projects coalesce into what might be taken as an unsentimental kind of self-examination: The Lee Harvey Oswald Interview (1976), for example, actually comprises a ‘conversation’ between the artist and herself.
A line of dialogue is taken from ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ (1988, Philip Kaufman), with voices saying; “Tomas, what are you thinking? I am thinking how happy I am.” Bacher has paired this simple exchange with a monochrome background that changes slowly from black to white and back to black. The piano soundtrack and loaded sounds, the rain, the wood pigeons, cars and windscreen wipers build up the idea of a past occurrence or memory, but when disembodied from the imagery, the film is more ambiguous. This moment is repeated, and as it returns back through light to dark, everything we could attribute to the dialogue between the lovers and this moment – hope, happiness and love – quickly passes, and we end the film back in the dark where we began.
Anthea Hamilton Venice (2011)
Anthea Hamilton is best known for her sculptural assemblages and installations which she has referred to as ‘performative spaces’. Setting up elliptical conversations between classical statuary and contemporary pin-ups, these works often involve the motifs of wooden cut-outs of women’s legs, modelled on her won, furniture (which is similarly leggy) and slatted blinds. Regarding the latter, it is useful to remember that the French word for blind is jalousie: the emphasis in much of Hamilton’s work is on the potency of looking; all of these objects wither imply or are infused with different kinds of desire. There is an intoxicating awareness here of the body in motion, the body on display, whether is it in the gym (as in the 2009 installation Turnhalle, or Gymnasium, which includes read-to-use sports equipment) or on the dancefloor. Venice includes John Travolta’s famous routine in the 1977 film ‘Saturday Night Fever’.
Hamilton’s interest in disco stems from her interest in how it offers a democratic platform for personal display. Thumbing its nose at Modernism’s ‘less is more’ maxim, Hamilton’s interpretation of the era revolves around the disco strut. Hamilton’s set takes the place of the disco dancefloor, and her actors improvise around the space, creating their own strut, whilst later, john performs his famous dance scene between the legs of a collaged man working out. The decadent sensibility of disco is at se to structure the film.
A combination of live action and animation, Hamilton transforms motifs of her sculptural works into the transitions from one scene to another: for example a pair of legs snap together as a clapper-board, another pair walk across creating a ‘slide-wipe’. Liberated from their native scale, collaged and found images and footage shot on set form a time-based exploration of different ways of looking that is part sensual, part comic.
Judith Hopf Some Ends of Things (2011)
Judith Hopf’s absurdist work scrutinises public consensus and individual behaviour from unlikely angles. Her short video Zählen! (Count!, 2008), for example, refers to early 20th-century accounts of Clever Hans, a horse who seemed to excel at arithmetic. What was the trick? An inquiry later attributed the spectacle to what became known as the ‘Clever Hans Effect’, whereby the performer gauges audience expectations rather than understanding the problem posed. Our actions, Hopf suggests, are often determined or completed by others. Her projects – which she sometimes develops with her students – are frequently collaborative. During the 1990s she organised an anarchic series of public events, which were called ‘Supersalons’, and has more recently created obstacle-like installations that impede viewers’ movements.
Hopf is fascinated by beginnings and endings – when can we say that something is no longer new and how do we know that something is already over? The artist’s recent work often returns to the idea of exhaustion. She frames this concept in Beckettian terms, considering the Janus-faced possibilities of speaking exhaustively and conversely, the point at which meaning itself is exhausted. Are you exhausted because of the endless possibilities or because the possibilities have already been exhausted? For Frieze Film she has developed this set of preoccupations into a project titled Some Ends of Things, which works towards what she terms a ‘deceleration of perception’ and ‘a radical support’ of desires and extravagances. The protagonists of this new work are a chicken, which bathes in the sun in its paradise, and an egg, a character that wanders the hallways of a modernist building. The discordant forms of the egg and the building cannot change, though they must coexist.
Katarina Zdjelar Rise Again (2011)
Working with a variety of subjects, from the phonetic transcription of a Tears for Fears song to a speech therapist specialising in ‘foreign accent removal’, Katarina Zdjelar’s work over the past years has been concerned with how communities are shaped and fractured by language. She has produced a wide range of videos, sound pieces and book projects, all of which circle around the broader implications of not only what we say but how we say it. For Zdjelar, speech is an unreliable contract that can only ever hope to maintain the smooth functioning of society, authority and identity.
She is particularly concerned with the inhibition of regulated systems (knowledge, language, ideology) by non-authoritarian voices (amateurs, foreigners, children), who challenge the system in which they appear, in terms of ethics, value and currencies.
In Rise Again, Zdjelar focuses on a number of male refugees from Afghanistan. Situated in an asylum center in the former Yugoslavia, these men are waiting to find out what the future holds for them. Discovering and inhabiting the wood closer to the asylum center in which they live, they can step outside their prescribed roles as refugees, shedding one reality to embrace or invent a new one. By combining allegorical imagery with martial arts elements, the film develops a narrative structure in which these men undergo transformation. Moving between these registers, they adopt different roles and meanings, rather than embodying an in particular. One of the Afghan refugees bears a strong resemblance to Bruce Lee and this likeness – in appearance and kung-fu skills – makes him symbolic representative of the group, a leader and an anchor.