IN Tolerable Image: Kerekes Péter János at Chimera Project

As a native New Yorker who once lived in the shadow of the Twin Towers, I have generally made it a policy to avoid both comment and anything art related to the horrific events of 9-11.  Anything that references the event usually hits a raw nerve with even the most irreverent New Yorkers or on the other hand risks inciting hackneyed emotional responses such as extreme nationalism, religious intolerance, or apples to oranges justifications.  However, when put in the context of temporal or geographic distance there exists both a desire to understand the event as well as a bit of morbid fascination.

Kerekes Péter János’s exhibition The Intolerable Image at Chimera deftly curated by Gadó Flóra and Heszky András presents the concept of disturbing images not merely as a record of heinous acts, but rather a springboard for dialog and post event participation. The events of September 11 as well as the video of the New York subway in 2012 when Ki Suk Han was pushed to his death onto the track in front of an oncoming train serve as the tableaux for interaction. We are all aware of the impact of social media presenting a somewhat twisted version of the Roman forum where a thumbs up or a thumbs down can virtually mean life or death. The YouTube video of the person falling from the Twin Towers received 6,409,715 views and 10,607 thumbs up and 2,903 thumbs down. The recent work of German artists Iman Rezai and Rouven Materneare tried to meld these virtual votes with real life consequences as online voting was to determine whether a sheep was to live or die by guillotine.

While certain images have always had the ability to move or motivate people especially in the wake of human tragedies caused by war, famine, or natural disasters, modern media channels have overwhelmed viewers to the point that many have opted to tune out.  Great efforts are expended to capture an audience and inculcate them with a message.  It is in this aspect that  The Intolerable Image shines as its intention is not to take the captive audience (the gallery visitors) and force them to watch an unpleasant narrative, but rather to offer the audience a degree of free will and emphasize that they in fact are active participants in determining what they see.  Kerekes has created a couple of interesting contraptions where the viewer not only affects the art, but is also present in the art to a degree.  A simple blocking of an external light source allows the viewer to see a super 8 loop projected on the wall.  Using a more sophisticated video rig with infrared light, visitors can see both themselves and the hidden picture within the seemingly black canvases on the walls.  The user comments from the aforementioned YouTube video plaster the large gallery wall adding names, faces, and volume to comments which most people merely see as a whole number beneath the video.  This allows for group participation as well as disparate views to be simultaneously expressed to the gallery audience in contrast to the normal solitary linear scrolling presentaion one normally experiences in front of a monitor.

The press release for the show states that its title comes from “Jacquies Rancière’s term ‘intolerable image’ that he elaborated in his book (The Emancipated Spectator)” and while the emphasis is on the images themselves, I also believe that it has broader implications given the dumbing down of the news and entertainment that modern Western society is willing to tolerate.

Kerekes Péter János The Intolerable Image 2014 January 23 – February 20 at Chimera-Project




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