Pablo Bronstein “Carousel” at OGR, Turin
OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni of Turin presents Carousel, a solo exhibition of the Anglo-Argentine artist Pablo Bronstein, curated by Catherine Wood, Senior Curator, International Art (Performance) at the Tate Modern in London.
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.
Pablo Bronstein’s Carousel, takes the historic form of the zootrope – whose optical illusion creates rudimentary moving images – as a low-fi metaphor for the circus of mirrors and screens that makes for our contemporary interrelations. In this new commission, and performance installation, Bronstein considers the structures of physical reality – city planning and architecture, the theatre, and the human body – through the lens of the extreme close-up, self-regard – or narcissism – endemic to our post-iPhone universe. The installation takes the form of a provisionally built, plywood maze that indicates a sequence of architectural spaces. These low-rise demarcations of built form allude, in turn, to an open, public piazza, a 17th century court, an early proscenium theatre, an opera house, and a circus arena, within with sits the folly-cum-zootrope, at its centre.
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, in collaboration with the choreographer Rosalie Wahlfrid, 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.
at OGR, Turin
until 9 June 2019