Late but Last Riot by AES+F Group

I wrote this many months ago, but I had been so busy that I couldn’t post it. It’s again about a piece from Venice Biennial 2007. I know.. It’s from last year. And I even had another travel to Europe a month ago.

Mozart and Last Riot

I had never thought Mozart was really great until that moment. I borrowed a Rubinstein’s Mozart Piano Concerto 17 from Berkeley Public Library. I was just checking Rubinstein, not Mozart. It was simply the fist one of his CDs I found in the library. At home, I played it several times and started realizing I was facing to Mozart. It was shocking. His music was pure pursuit of pure pleasure. The flow of excessively abundant melodies was an ultimately super-sophisticated magic. But, I knew what’s there were all musical cliches, playful manipulations of tonality and theatrical presentations of the development of motifs.

Mozart left me a big question. “Why am I so impressed by such a dramatic presentation of cliches?” Is that the power of Rococo?

The question is closely related to the reason why I was so impressed by Last Riot by AES+F Group that I saw in Russian Pavilion in the Venice Biennial 2007. Russian Pavilion curated an exhibition titled CLICKIHOPE named after one of the exhibited artworks by Julia Milner (try CLICKIHOPE was conceptually and aesthetically coherent exhibition and its thematic focus was on how recent technologies would touch human emotion. Each piece showed how indirectness of technologies evoked dissociated and sentimental emotion and excitement. The idea itself has been frequently examined and become a cliche, but the execution of work in the exhibition was overall remarkable. A film by AES+F Group was the most impressive one, probably one of the three greatest in the Venice Biennial. The collaborative group of Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky and Vladimir Fridkes unveiled a magnificent epic projected on triptych screens. The film was the combination of animated illustrations, live figures and orchestral background music. The movement of the figures looked like animated sequence of portraits, being repetitive and compiled with stop-motion frames which fade in and out. They were young-adult soldiers with no emotional expression when they killed each other. Their physicality and reality were deliberately deprived and they became the design of surface backdropped by the artificial animated landscapes and overly expressive music.

Last Riot is a contemporary epic that orchestrates a variety of tricks that make it so universal. First the “story” was backgrounded by full of dichotomies, such as creation vs. destruction, the future vs. the past and virtual animation vs. live figures. Also it was full of unidentifiable fusions, androgyny and timelessness. Identifiable mixture was also clearly found; multi-culturalism. Its sequence was clearly defined as four seasons. Also it had some very exclusive specificity, such as use of adolescents, fashionable application of military uniforms. Towards its end, the world in the film starts falling apart, but the film does not show what actually dilapidates it. The mystery drifts behind the scenes, and the viewers do not even get a chance to question it in the fast and dramatic presentation of its decay.

The message I got from the film was like this. For those of us who have realized that we failed in construction of reality in the world, one route left for us to survive is to solidify the ground of our virtual fantasy and let it securely nurtures and protect our psyche. Predicament of our psychological condition resides in our ability to connect the virtual world to physical pain and pleasure. Physical pain is very close to physical pleasure. Psychological struggle makes us escape into our physical pain as well as into physical pleasure. Because our body is decentralized by lack of physical-perceptual experience, we all start needing both physical pain and pleasure to justify our virtual violence and utopian fantasy. The justification is the proof of our world. But, this serious issue of our society is not exactly the point I wanted to talk about in response to the film.

I want to say this finally. I was truly impressed by the film, but the film was full of the things I am already tired of:
1. Post-modernistic use of Orientalism as seen in Peter Greenaway‘s “Pillow Book” or “Kill Bill”
2. The idea of Apocalypse “the end of the world”
3. Fashion with juvenile beauty and sexualization of young adults (as seen in United Colour of Benetton)
4. The use of orchestral background music.

I am basically saying that all the elements of the film was so cliche, superficial and a joke. It is, though, very important to know that meaninglessness or even absurdity may become so “meaningful” when it’s conveyed through the grandeur presentation of craft and beauty. Isn’t that like Mozart? A Mozart, the combination of catchy phrases with full of witty but crafty musical shifts and twists, induces the similar experience. It is a sugar coated Rococo expression of desperate disaster. In art-making, no matter what the content or the medium we work on, what makes the artwork good is if it’s done over the top or not.

(Taro Hattori, Spring 2008)

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