Magazine article Artforum International

Cyprien Gaillard: MoMA PS1

Magazine article Artforum International

Cyprien Gaillard: MoMA PS1

Article excerpt

The bold beating heart of "The Crystal World," Cyprien Gaillard's first solo exhibition at a museum in New York, was a work that viewers could hear before they could see it. A snatch of an old David Gray song, endlessly repeating the name of an ancient place with as heavy a sorrow as anodyne pop could bear, drifted through the corridors and drew visitors into a large, darkened room. There, beyond the crackle and whir of a 35-mm film projector, Gaillard's mesmerizing elegy for a ruined Iraq, Artefacts, 2011, was playing in a continuous loop on a screen more than nineteen feet high. The artist shot the entire piece with the video camera on his mobile phone, then transferred the footage to its lush cinematic support. The wild discrepancy between amateur-style camerawork and commercial-quality film stock is just one of the many contradictions that make Artefacts such a strange, disarming, and deeply moving work.

It's a project that could easily have gone wrong: A young and fashionable artist goes to Baghdad for adventure and war tourism and casts an indolent set of eyes across the wreckage laid out before him. But Gaillard's images are ardent, curious; they hum with self-awareness. The film unfurls a ceaseless procession of deserts, sandstone archaeological sites, and apocalyptic junkyards with cars piled high; of palm trees, tall grasses, and other such tufts of vegetation; of soldiers in fatigues, mustachioed men in thobes and kaffiyehs, some character in a fine-tailored suit holding a chunk of rock to the camera, and the skirts of a whirling dervish. And still, somewhere off-screen, that thin, melancholy voice intones "Babylon" over and over again.

To a certain extent, Gaillard's reputation continues to rest on the heft of Desniansky Raion, 2007, a thirty-minute video and "electronic opera" made in collaboration with the DJ and composer Koudlam. Though typically shown as an installation, the piece has also been staged as a concert, a mode of presentation that amplifies the sense that the social-housing projects that are pictured in the footage are the subjects and backdrops of obliterating violence. More recently, Gaillard earned considerable acclaim for The Recovery of Discovery, 2011. …

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