Entering Last Year at Marienbad Redux, a group exhibit and event series at a Midtown gallery, visitors are welcomed by tall mirrors, reminiscent of a funhouse, skewing their reflections.
Artworks in the exhibit reflect the themes of “Last Year at Marienbad,” a 1961 French New Wave film. Like the film’s puzzling nonlinear plot, the art attempts to piece together past events and document people, places, and things.
“The exhibition seeks to remind us that our understanding of a reality is a constructed one,” said James Voorhies, the exhibit’s curator, via e-mail. The inspiration first came out of the 2012 Presidential election. “I think many people watched in awe,” said Voorhies,“at the intense and repetitive narrative spun through the media machines of sound bites and images to become accepted fact for a majority of the American population who believed what the media told them about these candidates.”
The exhibit’s artwork again and again unveils human perceptions as flawed, a theme explored in the film “Last Year at Marienbad.” Voorhies said, “Our understanding of history is edited and cobbled together through the pieces of information and artifacts that survive and come down to us through both digital and printed materials.”
Iman Issa recalls past events using three individual objects in Triptychs. In this example, a photograph, architectural detail, and larger still life photograph vaguely reconstruct an event. While we can guess at some of the crucial elements, our inability to put the pieces together speaks to the flaws in the narrator’s storytelling. (Images from Rodeo Gallery)
Blast From the Past, a playful, but sinister puzzle from the estate of Gordon Matta-Clark, instructs players to recreate a scene from a history of a floor. A pile of cigarette butts, dirt, screws and rusty nails swept together in a vitrine awaits interpretation.
Josh Tonsfeldt created Marion, an installation based on documents the artist found in a box of a New York socialite. In the example above, from afar you can see a photo of Marion (or another woman?), but when looking directly down at the image, a layer between the viewer and the photo renders the image invisible.
In Video Art Manual, a how-to montage, tips about making video art are combined with scenes of familiar television shows and original footage by the artist, Keren Cytter. Messages are convoluted with news footage and a cheer-leading Richard Simmons.
The Bureau for Open Culture (I first found them at the NY Art Book Fair, but they are based in Vermont) have organized a number of interesting exhibitions and programs and publish related books. “Bureau for Open Culture publications are results of lived engagement in real time with the public,” said Voorhies. “Each of the books departs from exhibitions, performances, research and residencies. Over the years, the books are increasingly less documents of these projects and more integrated extensions of them.”
The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts hosts Last Year at Marienbad Redux until October 26, 2013.
Many thanks to James Voorhies for answering our questions. Images courtesy Bureau for Open Culture, Zach Feuer Gallery, and Library Manifesto.