Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Everything is going to be allright: Guido van der Werve at the Hirschhorn

In Guido van der Werve’s video Nummer Acht, Everything is Going to be Allright, from 2007, we see a small, lone figure walking on a huge expanse of ice with a massive ice breaking ship following close behind. The only sound we hear is the raging wind and shattering ice as the man and ship move forward.

The video follows in the tradition of the early work of such groundbreaking video/performance artists as Vito Acconci and Chris Burden who explored the line between pain, fear and art.

The sense of danger and personal risk connects Nummer Acht to works like Acconci’s Trademark (1970), wherein he bites himself and makes prints from the marks, or Burden’s Shoot—in which he was shot with a rifle in the arm—and Trans-Fixed—in which he was nailed to the back of a VW Bug, from 1971 and 1974, respectively.

But there are two significant differences between the works. While Burden and Acconci close-off the viewer by their acts, using the body in a self-reflective way, Van der Werve’s action is meant to reach out to the world in a gesture that tells us “everything is going to be allright” in a world full of tumult.

The second difference between the works lies in the aesthetics. In Nummer Acht, the image is as important as the act. The video is aesthetically beautiful in the traditional sense.

Acconci and Burden’s early work doesn’t deal with aesthetic issues in the same way as van der Werve’s. The medium is merely meant to document an act and is anti-aesthetical in nature.

Van der Werve, a Dutch artist born in 1977, has worked in several mediums, including painting and performance, and is a classical pianist and chess player, all of which finds its way into his films.

The video is on display until Oct. 11, 2009 at the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.