Noga Gallery is pleased to announce our third solo show with the internationally renowned artist Keren Cytter (*1977). In her exhibition Video Art Manual, Cytter presents her latest films: a premiere of three episodes from a multi-part series titled Vengeance (2012), and a film titled Video Art Manual (2011)
The exhibition’s title is taken from one of Cytter’s works Video Art Manual. In the film Cytter offers a historical analysis of video art and its development the last forty years, focusing on the conditions of how contemporary video art is produced, installed and consumed. The 15-minute work is a sardonic — and perceptive — take on video art and film, as well as their tropes, the same conventions the artist winkingly uses in her own films.
In the 3 episodes of the work in progress film titled Vengeance, Keren Cytter, who recently moved to New York, comes to terms with her own currently changing life situation. In particular, she takes up the US TV-format of the “daily soap” and processes classic themes of drama in personal relationships: love, envy, betrayal, and vengeance.
In contrast to older Cytter works such as The Date Series (2004), these new video episodes are less existential in nature and seem almost comical. What is also new about the exhibited films is their elaborate production. While previous works were often characterized by an intimate interior, Cytter stages these new episodes in the rich settings of Staten Island and New Jersey. The scenes were filmed at 15 different places, including restaurants, hotels, parks, apartments, and streets. A total of 50 actors, most of them professionals, fulfill their social functions with blank faces. They provide a projection space for the beliefs and stereotypes of each viewer.
Cytter takes up the concept of “friendenemies”, which has become popular in American soaps: two women, previously friends, get caught up in a perfidious contest in their daily office life, turning them into bitter rivals. In this conflict, both women are like puppets; driven only by the pressure of competition and the obsession with perfection. Not only the characters seem interchangeable, the story also stays intentionally superficial to grant the viewer a low-threshold access into the events. As opposed to previous Cytter films, the trivial dialogs of the series are not supplied with subtitles. The artist reviews impressions and clichés of the US American society, which have become part of our collective memory – not least by daily soaps such as Dallas or The Denver Clan. Cytter examines cut and dried patterns deeply rooted in pop-cultural visual memory and analyzes the influence of mass media on behavior patterns and prejudices in contemporary society.
The text about Vengeance was written by Natalie Keppler (translated from German)
Keren Cytter was born in Tel Aviv in 1977. She studied at The Avni Institute in Tel Aviv and received her degree from de Ateliers in Amsterdam. Cytter’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Moderna Museet, Stockholm;Tate Modern, London; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin and Kunsthalle Zürich. Her work was included in the 53rd Venice Biennial; Found in Translation, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; 8th Gwangju Biennale; Manifesta 7, Trentino; and Talking Pictures and K21 Kunstammlung Nordhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. Cytter currently lives and works in New York.
Keren Cytter is showing two video works, Four Seasons (2009) and Les Ruissellements du Diable (2008), and a selection of drawings in the Project Room.
The film Four Seasons (2009) opens with a neo-noir celebration of late-Hitchcock-meets-1980s-kitsch: a record plays dramatic music by Ferrante & Teicher; thick fake blood drips onto white tiles; snow whirls through the apartment and a lone woman climbs a dark, smoky staircase.
As the film unravels, conflicting narratives are revealed, switching between the stories of Stella, a tragic tale of heart-break and domestic murder, echoing Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), and Lucy. A voice-over describes the building using its architectural elements as metaphors for human behavior. Climaxing with a series of spontaneously combusting objects – birthday cake, Christmas tree, record player – Four Seasons is a homage to all that is fake, showcasing visual cliches, lo-fi special effects and deadpan delivery. Yet, somehow, Cytter creates a sense of poignancy rather than of cynicism.
Four Seasons is not purely a deconstruction of the mise-en-scene, a comic pastiche or a cinematic critique. Rather, it forms a complex exploration of perception and memory; layers of language and image create a hierarchy of interpretation that is reliant upon collective and personal cultural signifiers.
Cytter’s work emphasizes only multiple fragmented moments of feeling. Cytter flouts her style clashes manipulating these cultural tools with results that range from the banal to the sublime, from the embarrassingly comic to the vulgarly surreal.
Adapted from Kathy Noble, Frieze Magazine 123, May 2009
Les Ruissellements du Diable (The Devil’s Streams), refers to Cortazar’s story, “Las Babas del Diablo” (“The Droolings of the Devil”). Cytter’s video, trails a photographer chasing an infatuation through the reality of a photograph. Via emotional projection, the photograph and the TV screen are his sole connection to Michelle, a translator on television. Both characters eventually realize they do not actually exist while the empty nature of the photograph remains. Softer than her usual approach, Cytter’s solitary focus in The Devil’s Streams complements the mood of the Asian music throughout the film allowing scenes, characters, gender, and stories to seamlessly collide. Re-presented through her poly-vocal and deconstructed approach to cinema, the stories and conventions she alters find a new relevance to contemporary times.
Cytter applies Cortazar’s self-conscious narrative by lifting lines from the text for a reflexive voiceover musing on its own unreliability. The two onscreen performers, a man and a woman, externalize the conceit by explaining the story to the viewer—and to each other—as they simultaneously act it out.
Cytter is at her best when pushing the material to extremes: match cuts that meld the two characters (the man picks up a cigarette from an ashtray, the woman puffs it) and shock effects (graphic footage of male masturbation) that ensnare both the audience and the filmmakers in the characters’ circular voyeurism. And yet, what is most remarkable about the video has less to do with Cortazar’s “The Devil’s Drool” than with his novel Hopscotch, which offers the reader alternate paths through the chapters. With Les Ruissellements du Diable, Cytter has managed to create an emotionally intact narrative completely devoid of a beginning, middle and end. The characters watch TV, smoke, sulk, jerk off, meet in the park, spill a bottle of water, and hold hands in a series of self-contained but interrelated shots that could be reshuffled without losing coherence or disrupting the structure—or so it would seem.
Adapted from Thomas Micchelli, The Brooklyn Rail, January 2009
Keren Cytter (b. Israel, 1977) currently lives and works in Berlin. Her work has been exhibited in numerous museums, galleries, and international biennials.
Recently she was chosen second among “Top 100 Emerging Artists” by the Flash Art magazine, and received the first-ever Absolut Art Award:
Latest shows featuring her work include “Making Worlds,” the 53rd Venice Biennial, Italy, and the New Museum Triennial – “The Generational: Younger than Jesus,” New York, NY, “Television Delivers People” at The Whitney Museum in New York; “50 moons of Saturn,” The second Turin Triennial, Italy; The Yokohama Triennial, Japan; “Open Plan Living,” Art TLV, Tel Aviv, Israel; Manifesta 7, Trentino, South-Tyrol, Italy; The second Moscow Biennial, in Russia; and the Lyon Biennial, “The History of a Decade That Has Not Yet Been Named,” Lyon, France
Keren Cytter’s (born 1977 in Tel Aviv, lives and works in Amsterdam) artistic practice has gained an outstanding international recognition in the past three years. Since completing her post graduate studies in the studio program de Ateliers in Amsterdam, Cytter held solo presentations at Galleria d‘Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo (2006), Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich (2005), Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main (2005), Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam (2004), and an upcoming solo project in Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2007). Keren Cytter is also the author of the novels: The Sunset of Yesterday (Shadurian, Tel Aviv, 2003) and The Man Who Climbed Up the Stairs of Life and Found Out They Were Cinema Seats (Lukas & Sternberg NY-Berlin, 2005). Keren Cytter has just been awarded the Baloise Art Prize at the “Art Statements” sector of Art 37 Basel. Keren Cytter’s first feature film NEW AGE will be released in The Netherlands in winter 2007.
Keren Cytter is engaged in representations of social realities through experimental storytelling in which she cultivates radical subjectivity as a challenge to the restraints and rules of genres and language, both written and cinematic. Recalling amateur home-movies and video diaries, her films and videos are made of re-composed elements of the everyday, of impressions, memories, imaginings, desires and dreams. The scripts are part of the stories themselves, and the story in turn is always a story of the clash between a (perfect) script and an (imperfect) reality.
Cytter, who writes all her own scripts, deliberately uses an over-poetic and non-realistic spoken language to enhance the artificiality of the film making process. This eloquent and expressive speech is at odds with the videos’ documentary style, which includes lots of wobbly, hand-held, out-of-focus shots, culminating in the camera getting knocked over.
The subject matter of her work is the stuff of relationships -loss, loving, Ionging, friendship, betrayal – much of it culled from her own or her friends’ lives. While the language may be bookish, the topics are pure soap opera, and the disjunction between the words and images adds to the melodramatic flavour. Repetition is an important factor in Cytter’s work, both in language and montage. Phrases are stated more than once, sometimes slightly altered, and particular shots are occasionally repeated. People re-enter the same room several times, although the plot seems to move forward normally. More layers are added visually by the use of colour, whether by stripping it away entirely to black and white or by accentuating and saturating it.
Cytter deconstructs traditional narrative structures by superimposing video clips with nonharmonized voice and sound sequences that are often doubled up with subtitles, and in this way conjures up an often surprising and always arbitrary reality. Usually produced in a cheap and simple way, the videos imitate the genre of documentaries and yet the quotes and clichés taken from popular culture, film, Pop music and trash literature expand them, propelling them into a purely fictitious world where our ability to grasp things is sorely tested.
(the text was adapted from press releases from KW 2006, Kunsthalle Zurich 2005 and Frieze 92, 2005 by Amanda Coulson).
Repulsion consists of three short films, and is based on the Roman Polanski’s Repulsion from 1965. In the original film the main character, played by Catherine Deneuve, works at a beauty salon in London and lives with her sister. When the sister is away on a trip to Italy with a boyfriend, Catherine murders her pursuer and throws him in a bath full of water. Her landlord comes for the rent and tries to sleep with her, but she kills him too rolling his body inside a carpet. When the sister returns, she finds the two bodies and Catherine unconscious under a bed. On the floor there is an old family photo with a girl that looks demented.
After seeing Polanski’s film Keren Cytter “decided to make three short movies that focused upon the protagonist and the two supporting characters. The interaction between the three characters would create tensions that led to a cruel death at the end of each movie. The characters would change parts – the killer in one movie would be the victim in the second, and the witness in the third, and vice versa. This way the three short movies would serve as three layers of one movie that had no plot. [She] recalled the actions and objects from the original movie that had left the deepest impression on [her] and decided these would be the actions presented in [her] three short movies.”
The movies don’t tell any story, and the actions of the characters are arbitrary. The actors change their roles in each movie, thus creating a perfect symmetry. The movies are meant to describe the feelings of disgust, alienation and claustrophobia. They focus on a girl, who when left alone suddenly becomes engulfed by feelings of uncontrollable repulsion, suffocation that clouds all reason, and paranoia – those feelings slowly drive her away from life.
 From “Repulsion” by Keren Cytter, Metropolis M #5, 2006