Domestic Arenas at Galerie Rudolfinum

Six unrelated videos show different facets of social issues

Galerie Rudolfinum has been turned into a dark maze with six video installations. The group show called Domestic Arenas runs until March 18.

A bilingual catalog in Czech and English is included with the price of a ticket, and it has a helpful map as it is easy to bypass some of the rooms while wandering in the dark.

The videos are independent works. “Every video stands alone; it has no connection with the other works. The videos can be viewed in any order and … many times; it is also possible to revisit them and consume them in different combinations. Each work opens one ‘domestic arena.’ symbolizes one major issue and problem – still, one can find a number of other variations and facets for each one,” curator Petr Nedoma said in a press release.

“What all the presented works have in common is the broad spectrum of definitively formulated views and fierce statements on issues which oscillate between happiness and pain, between life and death, between a quest for identity and spirituality – issues whose complexity destines them to be a world onto themselves. With a view to activating new circuits, we must try and position these sovereign entities in other, distinctly different social situations that lack this historical experience,” he added.

Seeing the whole show will take a bit of time, as the videos are not the type that a viewer can glance at for a few seconds and then move on to the next.

The video Luanda-Kinshasa by Stan Douglas is over six hours long, and it re-creates a funk recording session in the 1970s at a once-famous New York studio. It is not a straightforward as it looks, there is a lot of manipulation of both the sound and the images. Though, in this case, few people watch the entire video. How much you will want to see depends on how you like the music and the retro fashions.

At the other end of the spectrum, Stateless by Shimon Attie clocks in at a little over seven and a half minutes. The film has slow-motion tableaux of refugees in Europe.

Dance is the subject of Bom Bom’s Dream, a 12 and half minute collaborative work by producer Jeremy Deller and choreographer Cecilia Bengolea. The video explores dance rituals and competitions with low-fi special effects meant to evoke the feel on 1990s videos.

Shown on two side-by-side screens, Kahlil Joseph's 15-minute film m.A.A.d. takes music from Kendrick Lamar's 2012 album good kid, m.A.A.d city. The video portion comes from home videos shot in the 1990s, news footage and other sources showing the experience of inner city life.

Standing out a bit from the others, Tropikos by John Akomfrah is a 37 minute period piece about an early encounter between Europeans and Africans in the 16th century. The video contains several visually impressive, dreamlike scenes set to spoken excerpts of writings by explorers, Shakespeare and Milton.

Returning from war forms the narrative in Omer Fast’s 41-minute video called Continuity. A German soldier comes back home from Afghanistan only to find his home to be an alienating place, as memories of war continue to haunt him.

“What all the presented works have in common is the broad spectrum of definitively formulated views and fierce statements on issues which oscillate between happiness and pain, between life and death, between a quest for identity and spirituality – issues whose complexity destines them to be a world onto themselves. With a view to activating new circuits, we must try and position these sovereign entities in other, distinctly different social situations that lack this historical experience,” curator Nedoma said.

Be sure to set aside enough time to give some of the videos the attention they deserve. Tropikos, in particular, is a visually the most impressive, and m.A.A.d. with its double-screen format also stands out.

But all of the pieces have something to say and are worth the viewer's attention.

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