Tuesday, 20 July 2010

SEE: Johan Grimonprez at the Fruitmarket

On display here is the one-hour masterpiece which first brought Grimonprez international notoriety: Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y first shown at Documenta X in 1997.  This was a pioneering work that has grown in stature since its arrival in the contemporary art world. Bob Dylan once said, “Don’t prophesise what you can’t understand”.  Well if Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y  is anything to go by then Grimonprez certainly did understand some of the greatest shifts in the way we conceptualise the world which have taken place during the Virtual Revolution, not just as they happened, but before they happened.  So this work is better than timely and almost certainly will be timeless.  He prophesised pretty nicely.

It is critical to bare in mind when viewing Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y that 1997 pre-dates many of the digital trends that have taken place in the past 10 years.  By questioning how images of events and happenings from around the world are displayed, Grimonprez makes us wonder how the power of new media could in fact be the highest force of all.  Could it even be that new media is the controlling power in our world today?  Now I know this seems a little trite here and now, but pre-1997 in a world without Youtube, Wikileaks and Twitter this was a very astute observation indeed.  i.e. the media has hijacked the hijackers, vis-a-vis the joker becomes the jokee.  Wicked Johan.

Doubletake is a maras of images inspired by one of Jorge Luis Borges's short stories. By addressing duplicates and opposites Grimonprez dives into the very heart of contemporary politics' conflicts.  He nestles the current woes of the world neatly in the context of the 2oth century and in doing so manages to create work which speaks to the individual as much as it does to society as a whole.

This work also marks the progression from Eisenstein's montage approach to social analysis through to zapping, and lastly, to skipping.  Double Take explores how using Youtube we bound between images of fear on the internet, and as a consequence, politics has become a mechanism for managing fear.  This is art that both reads and reveals: we live in a society that is now interested in prevention rather than coping.  In essence.. perhaps we've got a little greedy?

The holistic approach of these pieces, Doubletake in particular, to the machinary of the hyper-digital world will probably tell us as much about the world in 2020 as Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y reveals about our world today.


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