By Esther Belvis Pons
Sonya Russell-Saunders freelance curator of contemporary art, co- founder of The Wig and partner in Companis
Sonya Russell-Saunders / The Museum of [ ] Objects / Utilising a gram of material / The Wig / Companis / Junction Festival of Contemporary Art / Sample It, Loop It / WORKS / Botanatomica / b-ART-er / Crash Test Dummies / the whole is greater than the sum of its parts / Ready Steady Make / Floor Plan for an Institution / Queen Elizabeth Hospital / Sara Dobson / Stryx / Talking Point /
Chris Salter is a media and performance artist, based in Montreal and Berlin. Performance and performativity, as well as interaction with other disciplinary fields of arts are the main aspects and features of his work. Not only from the artistic point of view but also in terms of research. Salter is indeed involved in scientific research projects and publications (we would like to mention here his book published by MIT Press in 2010 “Entangled: Technology and the Transformation of Performance”).
The focus of his research is on the creation of augmented performative environments where sensor based tools and technologies challenge the sensorial experience on different levels (audio, visual, tactile, olfactive, etc). This is what is called “cross modal perception”, meaning an interactive and comprehensive experience of sensation, where time and space modalities of human perception are just the basis of a wider and deeper exploration in terms of synesthetic boundaries. The aim is to question not only the traditional performance environment, but also the standard(ized) cultural sensations that come with it. In order to do that, the artistic environments are augmented by computer-based tools, sensor networks and other specific technologies.
A perfect example of this kind of art research is the work Displace 2.0 presented at the 2012 edition of the Todaysart Festival. Todaysart Festival seems to be more and more an event not to be missed in the European digital art scene. It is not only a remarkable qualitative artistic level, but also a great organization and an effective structure. The main theme, as stated by the organizers, this year was “the search and the loving for the undiscovered”. Multiple were not only the venues but also the aspects of the this edition’s program, presenting audiovisual productions, modern dance performances and workshops, DJ sets, concerts, installations and exhibitions.
Marcel Dzama: The End Game features the artist’s film, A Game of Chess, alongside related drawings, paintings, sculptures, and dioramas.
Dzama’s work draws from a diverse range of references and artistic influences, including Dada and Marcel Duchamp. His film features characters based on the classic game of chess. Dressed in geometrically designed costumes of papier-mâché, plaster, and fiberglass and wearing elaborate masks (including a quadruple-faced mask for the King), the figures dance across a checkered board to challenge their opponents in fatal interchanges.
Chess occupied a central role for the early twentieth-century avant-garde, who drew explicit analogies between the game (with its intricate balance between improvisation and predetermination) and artistic practice. Dzama is influenced by German Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer, whose Triadic Ballet from 1922 included puppet-like, costumed, and masked figures dancing across a checkered surface. French film-maker René Clair and painter Francis Picabia were amongst other artists who integrated ballet and chess in their works from the 1920s, employing the special set of rules and moves of the game as metaphors for larger questions regarding free will, destiny, and technological determinism.
Both the filming and the creation of the costumes for A Game of Chess were carried out in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the influence of local crafts and religious traditions can be felt throughout this body of work. Notions of scapegoatism and resurrection blend with the timeless idea of rivalry represented by the game, and distinctions between reality and fiction ultimately become blurred as both costumed and “real-life” characters in the film are killed. In this way, the storyline recalls the Surrealist predilection for dream logic over conventional narrative form—epitomized by Luis Buñuel’s films from the late 1920s and early 1930s. However, Dzama still retains a strong sense of a plot, with subtle insinuations to contemporary life discernible throughout.
The exhibition also presents two rotating sculptures based on central characters in the film as well as new paintings created especially for this exhibition. Marcel Dzama: The End Game marks the first solo exhibition of Dzama’s work in the Midwest.