Pablo Bronstein: Carousel
Curated by Catherine Wood
Carousel – a site-specific project commissioned by OGR for the spaces of the former Turin’s train factory – represents a new chapter in the institution’s investigation on and around the relationship between bodies in motion and architectural spaces, between performance and the dynamics of the use of space. The exhibition continues in the baroque Music Room of the Ospedaletto Complex in Venice, which will become OGR’s outpost during the 58th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale.
Rather than critiquing the hyper-exaggerated reality of this 21st century Society of the Spectacle, Bronstein builds on the fertile foundations of its delusions and seductions. Through this installation, video and performance, he conjures – instead – a world of malevolent fairy-tale power and aesthetic possibility.
Taking a new quasi-narrative direction, Bronstein imagines the Grey Witch: an enigmatic, neutral figure personifying the silver material behind a mirror’s glass that is invisible to us precisely because of its reflective properties, and is only ever revealed as a thin layer when the mirror is cut through, in cross-section. All-seeing, this figure remains, for us – however – mostly elusive and un-seeable, aside from her occasional, eruptive flash of presence via video screens.
Mirrored panels line Bronstein’s central folly: a projection machine-cum-surveillance tower that is positioned at the far end of the gallery space. Its inhabitant, the Grey Witch, is an uncanny figure between life and death, whose presence is only occasionally glimpsed within the real-time experience of the installation. The placement of a number of digital screens intrudes into and regulates Bronstein’s uniquely designed maze: a flimsily constructed sequence of implied performance ‘scenes’ and audience positions in which a number of dancers, choreographed by Bronstein, enact looped iterations of folk and courtly ritual for visitors. These choreographies appear as exercises in the seduction and attractions of watching and being watched. The artist’s theatre-maze takes us, as visitors, on a journey from participatory dances to formal balletic spectacle and beyond, but via truncated gif-style repeats of movement that resemble the avatars who manifest symptomatic tics of an enthralled, networked contemporary attention span in which social reality and virtual landscape are fluidly entangled.
Building up on earlier works such as the hallucinatory, revolving mirrored chamber of Constantinople Kaleidoscope (Tate Live, 2012), or the queering of public space in Plaza Minuet (ICA London, 2006), the relationship between historical architecture, mirrors, digital screens and dancers in Bronstein’s looped and repeated live installation summons a fictional territory that initiates trans-historical flow, opens up wormholes and leaps of imagination, and speaks to questions about how to inventively inhabit the constrictions of the space, time and image of the present. Bronstein’s Carousel propels his viewers into a ceaseless cycle of moving, and looking, and being looked at, all the while underwritten by the static threat of the Grey Witch’s unmoving, and all-seeing eye. Channeling Jack Smith, John Waters, and Peter Greenaway, Bronstein’s take on the audience’s pedestrian path through a reflexive potted history is extra-ordinary: every angle, pose, glance might constitute a selfie.
Sala della Musica del Complesso dell’Ospedaletto, Venice
In this piece, we see two dancers, doubled by the use of a large-scale video projection; the figure of the Grey Witch, and a figure with a red-painted face, played by Bronstein himself, whose ability to see, and move exceeds the rules and parameters of the mirror-inflected city world. Both driving force and disruptor, symbolic of the devil or of desire, Bronstein’s red made-up mask appears as a counterpoint to the cool surveillance of the Grey Witch.
Appearing behind the grille of a balcony behind viewers in the space, his own viewpoint is relayed to a video screen below, and he occasionally enters the main space to interrupt the ritual loops of danced movement. Bronstein has often appeared in his own work as both author and agent, playing fictional selves who are as much subject to the fantastical delusions that he is creating in his pictorial vision as the characters with which he co-exists in the work.
Link to exhibition page: https://ogrtorino.it/en/events/pablo-bronsteinogr