MuHKA’s foyer

If emotions were places, MuHKA’s foyer could be mistaken for an intersection. The first four works in this timely exhibition represent tendencies within the psychosphere, from Bas Jan Ader’s film I’m Too Sad To Tell You (1971) to the euphoric teen in Althea Thauberger’s photo Hiker’s Bliss (200l). However, it is the second pair of cardinal points that provide the more ambiguous and potentially interesting axis: Maria Lusitano’s Nostalgia (2002), a voiceover with pop songs animating found footage, set in 1970s Mozambique, of a Portuguese soldier and his bride (the narrator’s fictive sibling, for whom she yearns), and Lili Dujourie’s videos, Hommage a I and Hommage a III (1972), which has a woman tossing and turning, neither asleep nor awake (but, like Lusitano’s narrator, restless all the same).

Of the four signposts, it is the last one I am most intrigued by, the one I (unconsciously) follow. Fitting, then, that the next room has Stephen Waddell’s bland portraits of a hiker, a truck driver and an artist–at rest, asleep and meditating, respectively–in their natural environments. Adjacent to that, Nestor Kruger’s Two Turntables (2002), where digitized forests projected opposite each other revolve while the viewer remains static.

art exhibitions

It is a calming juxtaposition, one that functions as an intermezzo, with the following room a potentially explosive “second movement.” Certainly the content is there. In Loulou Cherinet’s White Women (2002) a group of black men grouse about their Swedish wives, and in Villesen & Frank’s Solveig (2002) an equally anxious transsexual discusses life as a woman. Unfortunately the hugeness of the room gets in the way, and what should have been a tension builder wasn’t.

The final room in the sequence suggests a return to the blissful energies of the Thauberger photo–her Songstress (2002) video, where four young singer-songwriters perform, one after the other, in nature. This is a disturbing work, not for the wide-eyed sincerity of the singers (all of whom responded to the artist’s newspaper ad) but the cruel impassivity of the camera–a single static shot, more Warhol than MTV, more voyeur than enabler. Opposite that, Lily van der Stokker’s overwhelmingly positive frieze offers the viewer her “regards.” At the furthest point in what turns out to be an even bigger room than the one before it (did they build ships here?), Sophie Nys’ sped-up video of a woman dancing as fast as technology will let her, a conflation of joy and rage.

At the other end of the exhibition, two rooms containing an additional five works–though by the time I return from the first sequence I feel I have had enough. Not because the additional works are weak but because their arrangement lacks the consideration (didacticism?) of the previous sections. Indeed, where in the first sections I felt like Hesse’s Harry Hailer, here I feel I’m at a desk looking at slides. Sure, Tom Zummer’s drawings of robots are (ironically) “human,” but the smug assemblages of David Shrigley and the cold-eyed camerawork of Mark Lewis seem gratuitous. On the other hand, because “emotion” is everywhere, the work of these artists can’t help but inform, bringing to mind not so much Spinoza’s emotional taxonomies but Nussbaum’s emotion as judgment. Which would be a bad thing, I suppose, if the curator, like the rest of us, weren’t so torn.

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