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