Cao Fei, My Future is Not a Dream 02, 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects, New York.

Four Thursday Nights: Creative Imagination

 

EXHIBITION: APRIL 24, MAY 1, MAY 8, AND MAY 15, 2008

 

Art Matters!
Conversation between artist Catherine Sullivan and
AAM Director and Chief Curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson

 

During April and May, the Aspen Art Museum presents its annual video and film series Four Thursday Nights. Offering a thematic selection of exciting contemporary video and film from around the globe, a new work premiers each Thursday night and runs for one week in the museum's Lower Gallery.

The narrative spaces created in film and video works often offer a glimpse into the personal fantasies of the artist, while simultaneously delineating a space of retreat and introspection for the viewer. Because of its tacit acceptance as a document, any photographicallybased medium is continually in dialogue with and measured against a perception of reality. By adding the element of time, and, hence, the implied promise of narrative, film and video works are doubly infused with a push/pull with the real. The works included in Four Thursday Nights: Creative Imagination explore the productive spaces created by diving into the center of this conflict. They continually play with both our assumptions about authenticity and our expectations of the medium. By utilizing otherworldly settings, incongruous action, and ethereal choreography, the works in this exhibition define places that are formed and exist only in the creative imagination.

Thursday, April 24, 6:00 p.m.
Catherine Sullivan (in collaboration with Sean Griffin)
The Chittendens (Morbid Naturalism), 2005
Film introduction with artist Catherine Sullivan and AAM Assistant Curator

Matthew Thompson

Employing a variety of scripting and numerically-derived choreographic techniques to elicit what she refers to as “attitudes”—hybrids of emotional and physical states—Catherine Sullivan’s unsettling, anxiety-ridden films explore the naturalized codes of “acceptable” behavior in contemporary society. Drawing from and combining a number of disparate sources—from film and costume history to contemporary art and dramatic theory—Sullivan creates unreal tableaux that resist the transparency of conventional narrative, instead focusing on the conventions and connotations of performance itself.

 

In The Chittendens (2005), Sullivan draws upon twentieth century middle-management and nineteenth century leisure-class archetypes for both setting, character, and movement. In examining the visual motifs that permeate the world of American business culture, Sullivan was struck by the preponderance of maritime imagery, especially the lighthouse. The work itself takes its name from an insurance agency the artist came across in Phoenix, The Chittenden Group, which uses a lighthouse as its logo. One of the central scenes in The Chittendens is filmed in an abandoned lighthouse on a small island in Lake Michigan named, ironically, Poverty Island. Corporate offices are another main setting for the action. In The Chittendens, neither the historical significance of the locations nor the stylized actions of the characters cohere into a transparent narrative, creating a productive tension that, according to the artist, serves to present the desires of others.

Thursday, May 1:00, 6:00 p.m.
Cao Fei
Whose Utopia?, 2006
Film introduction by AAM Director and Chief Curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson

Cao Fei creates dream-like video work that meditates on the unprecedented acceleration of every aspect of Chinese culture as it hurtles down a path of industrialization and Westernization. Over a six month period at the OSRAM China Lighting Ltd. factory in the Pearl River Delta in China, Cao Fei worked with factory workers to create Whose Utopia? The Pearl River Delta has been the epicenter of China’s manufacturing boom, drawing workers from throughout the country dreaming of opportunity.


Whose Utopia?
is a portrait of the dreams and desires that ebb in and out of the lives of the factory workers. Infusing the notion of the documentary with fiction and fantasy, performances of dance and music are counterposed against the mundane actions typical of a factory work day. In fact, a rock band—My Future is Not a Dream—formed as a result of the project, and Cao Fei used their name as the title for the final sequence of the work, pointing to the workers’ refusal to be marginalized in the face of China’s rapid economic growth.

Thursday, May 8:00, 6:00 p.m.
A.L. Steiner + robbinschilds

C.L.U.E. (color location ultimate experience), Part 1, 2007
Film introduction by AAM Director and Chief Curator Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson

A.L. Steiner works in a variety of mediums, exploring normative gender roles and subverting traditional representations of the female body. A recent ongoing project, 1 Million Photos, 1 Euro Each (minimum order), has been more than ten years in the making. Installed wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, the work collects—as the title suggests— over one million photographs of the women in the artist’s life.


A journey into the heart of the American landscape, C.L.U.E. (color location ultimate experience), Part 1 is an exuberant collaboration between Steiner and the dance duo robbinschilds. From backyard swimming pools to desert highways, dense forests to deserted beaches, robbinschilds—dressed in bright, monochromatic outfits in each of the seven shades of the visual spectrum—enter into an almost organic relationship with each environment.


Through Steiner’s staccato editing and the driving soundtrack composed by the Seattle-based band Kinski, the work becomes a joyous subversion of the familiar trope of the American road trip, exploring both the liberating possibilities offered by the natural world and the need for a poetic re-imagining of the commerce-driven built environment.

Thursday, May 15, 6:00 p.m.

Saskia Olde Wolbers
Deadline, 2007
Film introduction by AAM Assistant Curator Matthew Thompson

London-based Dutch artist Saskia Olde Wolbers creates video work that explores the interconnections between intimacy, narrative, and place. Her beautifully crafted, languidly paced works seem to drift through strange settings and stranger stories, often seemingly without a beginning or end—just a charged middle. While, at first glance, the ethereal, almost liquid quality of the visual elements in the works seems computer generated, it is, in fact, a product of intricately constructed models filmed by Wolbers. These are paired with equally seductive narration, usually in a hushed, intimate voice, disembodied and enveloping the viewer.


Deadline drifts between ornate, beaded interiors, totemic stone constructions, a dissolving glass rabbit, and snaking bodies inspired at once by African modernist architecture and tribal myth. The female narrator relates an amalgam of stories, mixing local legend with personal recollection, all poetically retelling a Gambian woman’s family history. At one point, the narrator wonders, “Do we all have journeys mapped out in our central nervous systems like migrating birds? It seems the only way to account for our insane restlessness.” Indeed, it is this sense of compulsion and inevitability that permeates the artists charged narratives.

Four Thursday Nights: Creative Imagination is organized by the Aspen Art Museum. AAM Art Talks during Four Thursday Nights are part of the Questrom Lecture Series.