Friday, March 17, 2006

Muxima and This Is Not A Time For Dreaming

Venturing tentatively once more into the world of cold and uninviting art galleries, I took in a rather wonderful video at the Galerie Lelong. It's called Muxima and was made by Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar.

Essentially a love letter to the people and music of Angola, Muxima is split into ten cantos. Jaar, a passionate admirer of Angolan music, discovered he owned five different versions of a folk song, Muxima (heart). The film cues these variations on the tune to images from the country, alternating between lyrical shots of everyday life with political allegories, some more didactic than others.

Canto I is a still image, a group of young boys with their hands placed over their heart. It is an anticipation and visual corollary to the song, as well as communicating that the video is about, well, love for the country.

Canto II examines statues from the era of Portugese colonialism, circling across their scarred faces, and then in a dramatic pan downward, uncovers the rusted iron poles holding them up, exposed after years enduring the elements. Muxima plays for the first time over these images.

The rest of this film follows this pattern, oft-beautiful shots of everyday life (cartwheels on a beach, colorful umbrella on canoe, woman knelt in prayer) contrasted with reminders of the country's volatile politics - set to variations on a folk song. We see an arm gathering local fauna in close-up, the hand-held camera gliding over the verdant field. Brief shots of a microphone are joltingly inserted. Incrementally more is revealed as the camera pulls back - it is a man in protective gear, clearing land in a mine-field, setting the bombs off. After the bomb explodes, it returns to the studio, with a man singing a tender, lyrical version of the tune. The film thrives on these contrasts, forever finding the political in the formal, and does it with an adoring and searching eye.

Unfortunately its run is over.
However! Pierre Huyghe's entrancingly weird puppet-film "This is Not a Time for Dreaming" just opened at the Marian Goodman gallery. Based on the art-historical tale about Le Corbusier's travails designing the art center at Harvard, it's tender and delirious, extravagantly self-reflexive and terribly concerned about the value of art. The scene where a dreaming Le Corbusier imagines his ideal building is a fantastical imagining of the creative process, which makes the later concessions he had to make that much more painful, especially since they were forced upon him by a demoniac personification of Harvard itself.


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