Thursday, 26 May 2011
Julian Rosefeldt: American Night
From 21 June until 31 July, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) presents Julian Rosefeldt: American Night, an installation by leading German artist, Julian Rosefeldt.
A five channel installation that embraces the conventions of the Western film genre, American Night (2009) deconstructs the myths surrounding the foundation of America and offers a scathing commentary on recent US foreign policy.
Using settings that are commonly associated with Westerns - a communal campfire, the local saloon, a log cabin where a woman waits alone, a deserted main street, and a lone rider travelling across a rugged landscape - American Night offers an alternative view of freedom, one where satire and the unexpected are never far away.
Filmed in southern Spain and the Canary Islands on an original Sergio Leone film set, the title of the installation refers to the filmmaking technique of shooting 'day-for-night', also known as 'American night', a practice that was commonly employed during the making of Westerns.
On one channel, a group of cowboys huddle around a campfire discussing freedom and their right to carry a gun, with their conversation consisting entirely of quotations lifted from pop-culture figures such as film director Jean-Luc Godard, rapper 50 Cent, and former actor and National Rifle Association President, Charlton Heston.
On another channel, George W. Bush and Barack Obama appear as the characters in a puppet show being played out in a saloon. Like many Westerns, the story concludes with a violent showdown, with Obama shooting his predecessor to create a new system of government.
Featuring long and almost static scenes cut alongside bizarre action sequences and thought-provoking dialogue, American Night uses the cinematic language of the Western to undo the mythology surrounding the lone, tough, silent hero as the creator and defender of freedom. Providing behind-the-scenes glimpses of the filmmaking process, it also offers a compelling snapshot of how narrative is constructed to convey particular viewpoints.
"On one hand I wanted to show that, more than in other film genres, the Western is constructed out of specific and clearly defined components. I wanted to show what happens when you try to deconstruct that system," says Rosefeldt. "On the other hand, I was interested in showing how the dominant American politics of today still perpetuates the myth of the frontier to uphold certain moral - and unmoral - standards."
Julian Rosefeldt has worked across the mediums of film and photography since the 1990s. Dealing predominantly with 16mm and 35mm film, he creates absorbing, multi-screen installations that explore the human condition through themes such as daily ritual, failure, alienation and social/psychological disconnection. He is an artist known for using cinematic language to create works that complicate the standard linear narrative of popular film.
Rosefeldt's work has been widely exhibited around the world including the Bienal de São Paolo, Athens Biennial, PS1 (New York), British Film Institute (London), Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid), Centre Pompidou (Paris), and the Hishhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington). In 2007, he was awarded the Filmstiftung NRW Award at the KunstFilmBiennale Köln for his film work, Lonely Planet, and won the Vattenfall Contemporary 2010, assigned in cooperation with the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin. He currently resides in Berlin.
Julian Rosefeldt: American Night is exhibited in Gallery 2 at ACMI in Melbourne from Tuesday 21 June until Sunday 31 July. Entry is free. For further information visit http://www.acmi.net.au/
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