Cyprien Gaillard in conversation with Rein Wolfs and film screening
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6 January 2008
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The exhibition ?Rosa Barba - They Shine? closes with a presentation of work by French artist Cyprien Gaillard during a conversation with Rein Wolfs, artistic director of Kunsthalle Fridericianum. Gaillard makes films that focus on cities - and suburbs in particular ? and the natural world. Through performance, mise-en-scene and intuitively made films, Gaillard underlines the beauty of the locations, while simultaneously exploring their grim connotations. Post-war urban suburbs were constructed as a celebration of hopeful ideals but have degenerated into hubs of conflict and crime. Only now, as they enter their final phase, are they becoming objects of interest, also to artists.
The work of Gaillard (1980) betrays influences ranging from Romanticism to Land Art but also evokes associations with vandalism. In the series of etches Belief of Disbelief he inserts a Modernist apartment block into etches produced by 17th century Dutch landscape painters, thereby pitting a romanticised ideal against post-war utopias. Gaillard also photographed graffiti-clad graves in a newly built Glasgow estate and filmed the detonation of a block of flats in Queens Court, Toryglen. In the series Real Remnants of Fictive Wars (2003-2007) he cloaks landscapes, including Robert Smithson?s Spiral Jetty, in blankets of smoke.
In the film Desniansky Raion (2007), recently screened during Art Unlimited at Art Basel 2007, the suburbs of Sint Petersburg, Paris and Kiev coalesce. In the first part, Gaillard films a gang war between two groups of hooligans from an adjacent building, recording their seemingly organised dispersal through the streets. Gaillard?s jolting images and extreme zoom are reminiscent of security camera footage. In the Paris suburbs, a gaudy laser and firework show draws attention to a block of flats but the mood rapidly changes as the building implodes. In contrast to the other suburbs, Kiev seems an oasis of calm when Gaillard films it from a helicopter at sunrise. The snow-covered prefab tower blocks present a serene facade that sooner resembles Stonehenge than a stark eastern European cityscape.
Gaillard?s films can be compared to those of Rosa Barba and Mark Lewis, who presented their work at the end of November at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam. Each of them makes work dealing with modernist architecture and the utopias it articulates.
With special thanks to Institut Français des Pays-Bas