Saturday, 20 February 2010

AERNOUT MIK - Dutch artist

JULY 2007
I saw an exhibition by this artist at the Edinburgh Fruitmarket gallery, and loved it.

In 'Shifting Shifting', Mik presents videos that display his characteristic fascination with spaces that come with preordained drama: police stations, courtrooms, sport stadiums. We’re well aware that these settings come entrenched in codes of power and hierarchies. But the people occupying the spaces in Mik’s films seem strange, at one remove from reality. Instead, they are wilfully petulant, volatile, or sometimes simply bored in otherwise extraordinary circumstances.

Vacuum Room (2005), shows scenes from a political assembly, interrupted by a group of protestors, that descends into chaos. The images are played onto screens arranged in a circle which the audience enters, placing themselves in the narrative and becoming enveloped into it.

Training Ground (2006), Mik has simulated a brutal police training arena. The images on the vast screen don’t allow the viewers the comfort of knowing whether they are watching acting or reality. And this ambiguity is furthered by the fact that the police are in civilian clothing: without the uniform, their authority is unclear. The unsettled audience doesn’t know if it is watching genuine law enforcement, or illegitimate aggression.

Scapegoat’ (2006), shows dishevelled figures laid on makeshift beds as bloodstained soldiers listlessly wander around, make soup and tie their shoelaces. ‘Scapegoat’ is particularly disturbing for its resonance with grim events: we are reminded of the Moscow theatre hostage crisis in 2002; the lawlessness of the Louisiana Superdrome in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005; the Beslan school siege of 2004.

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