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