The first thing one sees upon entering the Comunidad Ficticia ("Fictitious Community") video exhibition is what looks like an enormous, upside-down, black plastic hot air balloon with a dummy resting at the top.
Photo by Jason C. Hickerson
Though a "hot air balloon" (for lack of a better word, as there was most likely no hot air inside the sculpture) may seem out of place at a video exhibit, that is exactly what makes Comunidad Ficticia such a unique video experience. The exhibit contains nine videos created by various international artists, along with the materials used in the films themselves. "The exposition is an invitation to cross the looking glass of fiction," said curator Paz Guevara.
By setting the props next to the final product, the presentation demonstrates the normally two-dimensional video "coming alive and expanding to the tri-dimensional," Guevara said. Some of the other films use materials such as puppets, costumes, actors, the actual film stock and props to expose this other dimension as well.
If one were to look around the gallery at any given moment it would be difficult to tie the films together in style and theme. Some are mostly visual like Marc Aschenbrenner's "Zweite Sonne" (2005), the film with the black "hot air balloon." The video begins with a man crawling uphill over wet black plastic and then sliding down headfirst into a pool of water. The plastic then begins to ripple, slowly filling up with air to reveal that it is a large balloon. The man, who is now attached to the balloon with a harness, is lifted by the balloon off of a green field. The point of view then changes to show the subject from underneath, making it impossible to tell how high up he is. The video ends with the black balloon ripping at the seams and the top half flying off into the sky.
In a different fashion, Bjørn Melhus' "Auto Center Drive" (2005) cleverly presents an abundance of absurd characters, all played by Bjørn Melhus, who meet with one another and speak in dialogues completely derived from famous lines of various well-known figures such as Elvis Presley, James Dean, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Judy Garland as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. The protagonist "Little Jimmy," clad in bright yellow and a red jacket, encounters a series of characters, all played by Melhus. He asks them, "I've seen you before. Will you help me? Will you, will you really help me?" though it is never fully clear why Little Jimmy needs help.
Interestingly enough, I came to the realization that video has as much power to enrich the meaning of an object as it does to diminish it, simply by losing the third dimension, depth. Once these materials are flattened, the texture, size and shape is lost and enclosed within the two-dimensional square of film. The exhibition perfectly displays the artistic gap between the materials and the presentation of the materials in film, which in turn enriches the films themselves.
One of the exhibit's two films by Chilean artists is the two-minute film "La Esclava" (The slave, 2008) by Cristobal León and Paula Salas, which follows two puppets, one a young woman and the other a yellow thing with a head that resembles a pillow. Quite humorously, all of the dialogue exchanged between these two puppets is derived from a porno movie. Most of their discourse is face-to-face, with the "master" saying things like, "Get down on your knees," and the slave responding with, "Yes, Master." Though within the film the two characters appear to be the same size, in the gallery "the slave" is about one-tenth the size of "the master," which demonstrates yet again how different materials transform in the context of a video.
The other Chilean film is "Meritoria" (Commendable, 2008) by Alejandro Moreno, which begins with a man in the desert with a large set of animal jaws over his face and a parrot on his shoulder. He watches a young man being led by several other men through a ceremony of sorts, resulting in the young man's tongue being cut off. On opening night, the actors were present in costumes to make the spectator truly feel surrounded by the ambience of the production.
The variety within the exhibit is a smorgasbord of ideas and creative expression. On one screen, "Reminisces from the Zulu Zone" (2008) by Austrian filmmaker David Rych addresses the idea of cultural identity and memory, which is displayed by stitching together a multitude of uncovered historical footage of the past 50 years. Others were concerned with immortality such as "Forget Me Not 1" (2004) by Trine Lise Nedreas, a film of a woman swallowing 5 long knives, or " Mac Donaldi - King of Soap Bubbles" (2009), by the same artist, of a man blowing cigarette smoke into soap bubbles and then bouncing them around on his arm until they pop and disappear.
The exhibit runs until Sunday, May 17 and is a unique opportunity to view a video while simultaneously experiencing its fictitious world. As Guevara says, "Comunidad Ficticia invites the public to ramble between the result and the process, the registry and the performance, the pixel and the material, the flat image and the volumes."
Through May 17, 2009
Matucana 100 (between Agustinas and Moneda)
11 am to 1 pm, 2 to 9 pm
Metro: Quinta Normal, Estacion Central