Chronicles of a Disappearance @DHCART

How do you portray what is not there? DHC Art’s exhibition Chronicles of a Disappearance (January 19, 2012 — May 13, 2012) attempts to unravel this philosophical pondering by featuring works of five acclaimed international artists Taryn Simon, Omer Fast, Philippe Parreno, Teresa Margolles, and José Toirac, as they engage different aesthetic approaches that propel the viewer’s mind towards the act of disappearing.

American artist Taryn Simon’s  An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007) responds to a desire to discover unknown territories, to see everything from secret storage sites for nuclear waste to the contraband room at JFK Airport. After years of extensive research and struggling to overcome stringent regulations, Simon created a collection of photographs that document these inaccessible places that exist below the surface of American identity, absent from our collective conscious.

Omer Fast’s 5,000 Feet Is the Best (2011), uses the aesthetics of blockbuster movies produced in Hollywood. Yet, this slick movie speaks of the secretive world of modern armed conflict, in particular the aerial predator drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan. With this film, Fast tracked down pilots who operate the drone planes that are currently on military operations over Afghanistan and Pakistan. These drone are operated remotely by these pilots, who work normal nine-to-five day on army bases in the United States. Adapted from this documentation, the narrative is presented alongside an extract of original footage and a dramatization of an encounter between the artist and someone wanting asylum in Britain. Deliberately combining these disparate elements, Fast confronts us with contemporary recollection of displacement and loss in a film narrative that is set in the future but which appears to have been produced in the past.

Mexican artist Teresa Margolles, Plancha reflects the frightening extent to which the drug war is influencing Mexican society. At first glance, her work often seems to be minimalist in their form. I only discovered how deeply emotional and dramatic Plancha is after I became aware of the rigorous realism in her choice of material. In Plancha, Margolles uses water that was used to wash the corpses of murdered civilians from a Mexican mortuary. This water slowly drips onto a hot steel place plate, allowing the pungent odor of death to permeate the room.

Video artist Philippe Parreno’s June 8, 1968 a 70mm-shot film re-imagining the train journey that carried Senator Robert Kennedy’s coffin from New York to Washington. Cuban artist José Toirac exhibits Opus, a video loop of a Fidel Castro speech with much of the audio removed, leaving only Castro’s pronunciation of numbers. Opus references the absence of concrete facts in most political jargon.

I highly recommend checking out this exhibition. The only thing absent from this exhibition is your viewership.

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