After The Empire

Pierwsza w Polsce indywidualna wystawa Elodie Pong, mieszkajacej w Zurychu jednej z wazniejszych szwajcarskich artystek video. Jej prace byly prezentowane na licznych wystawach oraz nagradzane na wielu festiwalach filmowych, m.in. w San Sebastian i w Chicago. Artystka uzywa kamery jako swoistej „kozetki” dla swoich bohaterów, którzy nie tylko odslaniaja przed Pong swoje najskrytsze sekrety, ale równiez korzystaja z okazji aby zaprezentowac swoje talenty, pasje, fobie i marzenia. W After the Empire, najnowszym video Elodie Pong, ironicznie przerysowane postacie poruszaja sie w specjalnie stworzonej, skromnej scenografii, a ich dzialania sa jednoczesnie smieszne i tragiczne. Bohaterowie Pong wcielaja sie w postacie historyczne oraz wspólczesne, ikony popkultury (Marilyn Monroe, Elvisa Presleya) oraz komiksów (Batmana, Supermana) cytujac je w trudnych do rozszyfrowania monologach i dialogach. W pelnym swietle reflektorów zaludniaja przestrzen, w której nie sposób oddzielic teatr od rzeczywistosci. Swoja osobowosc aktorzy kreuja poprzez przywlaszczenie róznorodnych cytatów, których jezyk, czas i forma nie pasuja do siebie. Pojawia sie wiec pytanie, czy bohaterowie Elodie Pong sa ofiarami utraconego, zaginionego swiata, w którym potrafia sie poruszac jedynie przy pomocy gotowych i zuzytych juz cytatów? Czy tez moze mamy tu do czynienia z nowym, rewolucyjnym podmiotem, który obalil Imperium i juz dawno temu przyjal za swoja maksyme slowa Karla Marxa: History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.


In the latest video of the Zurich-based artist Elodie Pong titled „After the Empire“ different personalities of history and politics as well as pop and comic strip icons appear to stage a symposium on the great, still unanswered questions of life. On an austerely furnished stage and shifted into a post-utopian present, the protagonists are re-verifying their convictions, dreams and visions in front of a black and white photography of a destroyed industrial site.

“Give me time to make a few dreams come true, Black Star” says Elvis, whose time was up too soon, introducing a reflection on himself and his posterity. Martin Luther King’s role is played by two people, a young coloured woman, moving her lips synchronously to the original sound track of his famous speech “I have a dream”, and a young coloured man, who is dancing solemnly with an elder white lady, the only one, who is not a famous figure, but an ordinary person with her very own traumatic past. Minnie Mouse presents herself in Japanese and in the style of Internet sex- commercials as a pleasure-seeking and submissive masochist. Marylin Monroe sings a birthday song to herself as Mrs. President before she and Karl Marx discuss the fundamental philosophical question, entangled in a sensuous relationship, if the world could be changed. “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” replies Karl Marx quoting himself, and Marylin Monroe whispers „I am a material girl“ into a microphone. Comic strip figures Batman and Robin appropriate a dialogue between Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli from “Contempt” in a love scene full of erotic tension, originally a film by Godard about an author who has to choose between art and commerce. Pinocchio is sniffing cocaine into his long liar’s nose and listens to the latest stock market news. In another scene, Minnie Mouse is not able to overcome the language barrier between her and Elvis, only to dance to „Dancing with myself“ even the more enthusiastically. A female bodybuilder poses and shows her oversized muscles, as another form of the search for meaning and self-expression, before Sid Vicious, representing the no-future-generation, demands „Please, shoot me!“.

In this video work personal and collective history and memory, reality and fiction, High -and pop culture, past and present blend to a conglomerate of past and present ideals, of broken and at the same time indestructible personalities. Elvis’ schmaltzy songs become poetry, Madonna’s and John Lennon’s songs political statements. Personal tragedies, dreams, desires, sexual longings and political contemplation converge and make the insides of our society glimmer in their entire ambivalence. The capacious work of the video artist often emphasises around questions of identity and collective constructions of identity, of self-dramatization and instable situations of communication. “We Are The Knights on the Trajectories of a Post- everything- Era” is the title of another work of Elodie Pong’s and thus also offers a central idea for „After the Empire“. How is life shaped within an unconditionally pluralized, medialised, de- privatised and interlinked society that doesn’t any longer know utopias, not even the negative utopia of Punk, and not nearly any „We “?

The possibility to appropriate images and life conceptions out of a sheer inexhaustible pool of potential role models harbours a momentum of freedom as well as of despair. The characters, which dramatize themselves as unique individuals, often stay alone on their stage reciting fragments of texts. Even if they come as a pair, they permanently need to assure their status and significance of how they are: beautiful, talented and lovable. But their communication is only partly successful, as the system of signs of their counterparts cannot be decoded with their own set of codes. Yet rather productive misunderstandings and shifts of meaning result from this, and keep everything running. “After the Empire is before the Empire” or “After the show is before the show”- what lies in bits and pieces behind the knights of the post-everything-era and is ferments to a bizarre decoration, might also be their fate.

Text by By Birgit Kulmer and Sandro Parrotta. (c) Parrotta Contemporary Art


otwarcie 10 pazdziernika, g. 19.00
***opening 10th of October at 7 p.m.

sniadanie z artystka
sobota, 11 pazdziernika g. 12.00 – 14.00

***breakfast with the artist
*** Saturday, 11th October, from noon till 2 p. m

till 14.11.2008

Wystawa czynna 10.10 – 14.11. 2008, sr.-pt. g. 16.00 – 19.00