Sunday, 5 February 2012

I Decided Not To Save The World, Exhibition Review, 2012

Text by Mihaela Varzari

Level 2 Gallery, Tate Modern, 4 Nov 2011 – 8 Jan 2012


If art’s role is to provide change within one’s self and the society, then the exhibition I Decided Not To Save The World inquires into art’s possibility to impact the world, including the art world, which thinks of itself as a different world.
   The title of the show I Decided Not To Save The World is given by the video belonging to one of the participating artists, Mircea Cantor (b. Romania, lives Paris), the newly possessor of Marcel Duchamp Prix. It depicts a child uttering the very same words and it plays in a loop. In another very short video, the same child is trying to cut a stream of water coming out a tap. Given the lack of context and the age of the protagonist I can only think of a rather nebulous future waiting for the next generation. By being both illusive and bold, Cantor launches a provocation and also an enquiry into the power of action through simple gestures.
Film still from, I decided not to save the world, by Mircea Cantor, 2011
Courtesy the artist

   On the other hand, Mounira al Solh’s (b., lives Lebanon) video, Rawane’s Song deals with the heritage of the collective mythology inherited from the previous generation of artists. Her work becomes therefore political and ironically enough she is faced with the same pressing social issues formed around identity, global power relationship or war trauma. As opposed to Solh’s concerns raised by national and geographical characteristics, the artists’ collective Slavs and Tatars, who describe themselves as a “Collective of polemics and intimacies devoted to Eurasia!” participates with an installation called Wheat Molla. It is a turban made out of some sort of grains, possibly wheat, resting on a brick. Having in mind their practice based on confusing their national identity and inventing names for their mother language/s, the piece can be seen a critical reading of the religion dominated territories and the conflict it raises when it clashes with the politic.
   A neon lighten palm tree attracts everyone’s attention, while the film Beau Geste depicts a group of men trying to save a giant palm tree, process doomed to total failure. Yto Barrada (b. Morocco, lives Paris) creates a metaphor out of a palm tree, whose existence imposed by Western tourism, is used here in order to describe the socio-economic realities of Morocco.
   I cannot help myself but to think of this exhibition in relation to my walk across the Millennium bridge, which units Tate Modern and St. Pauls’ Cathedral, on a cold December late afternoon. As we know, Occupy movement has been active in London and took up residency in front of St Paul’s Cathedral since autumn 2011. The ‘ideological’ journey from one end to another becomes almost transformative in this particular context. If the art exhibition is taking place in the safe confines of the gallery space, the Occupy Movement creates an “event”. Even if they seem different in their approaches, both of them are concerned with similar issues: decentralisation of old archetypal structures and reorganization around progressive and more inclusive systems.