Aernout Mik

Shifting Shifting

16 February - 15 April 2007

Dutch artist Aernout Mik presents four absorbing and unsettling video installations. All made in the past eighteen months, these works strike a discomforting chord with many shared anxieties of recent times. The exercise and shifting distribution of power, patterns of human behaviour and the ordinariness of extraordinary events are played out within Mik’s insightfully edited and staged enactments.

Aernout Mik (b. 1962, Netherlands) is intrigued by the social dynamics of groups of people and their physical behaviours in different, often bizarre, contexts. We experience extraordinary situations as if they were routinely prosaic; as Michael Taussig suggests in his essay for the catalogue made to accompany the show, a little like travelling in an aeroplane and being encouraged to think of anything except the fact we are at 30,000ft above the ground.

A simulation of a police training arena provides the context for Training Ground (2006), a situation that slips between uncertain acting and brutal reality. The ‘actors’ are uniformly ‘dressed down’ so that the relationship between the side officially with power and those they are ‘controlling’ is uncertain.

Raw Footage (2006) is a dual screen projection of unused documentary footage from the war in former Yugoslavia. This material, now over a decade old, was not broadcast at the time due to its lack of dramatic content. The first time Mik has used ‘found’ material such as this, Raw Footage shows the banality of war which the news media typically edits out.

In contrast, Scapegoats (2006) is a staged fictional event recalling the aftermath of recent events such as the New Orleans floods, and the behaviour of people invested with powers they would not in ordinary circumstances have. Groups of people hang around, argue, sleep or do nothing, with no clear beginning and no sense of where it will end. What becomes clear as the film progresses is that roles are interchangeable.

Finally Vacuum Room (2005) is presented on intimate, enveloping panoramic screens, with synchronized projections of six different views of the same event. It takes on ideas of covering and uncovering, masking and unmasking, as scenes from a political assembly move from order to chaos when disrupted by a group of young protestors.

Training Ground, Raw Footage, Scapegoats and Vacuum Room have, at heart, themes based on the distribution, transformation and disintegration of power.

Aernout Mik's film installations are embedded in sculpture and are sometimes environments audiences can walk through. As always with Mik’s work, there is no classic cinematic narrative or sound to reveal anything of the human psyche other than the assumptions we make through observing the action played out before us.


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Shifting Shifting is organised by Camden Arts Centre with The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; Bergen Kunsthall, Norway and Kunstverein Hanover, Germany.

An illustrated catalogue designed by Irma Bloom featuring a new essay by anthropologist Michael Taussig (Columbia University, New York) is published to accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition is supported by the Mondriaan Foundation.

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