Eddo Stern. (Reviews: New York)

By Griffin, Tim | Artforum International, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Eddo Stern. (Reviews: New York)


Griffin, Tim, Artforum International


POSTMASTERS

Among the more provocative essays published after September II was Slavoj Zizek's "Welcome to the Desert of the Real," which suggested that Americans would have to renegotiate their relationship with spectacular culture after Al Qaeda attacks forced the rupture of our seamless, unbearably light, endlessly entrancing mediascape. Whatever has happened along these lines in mass culture, it's worth asking whether any such shift has taken place in New York art production, particularly in pieces most obviously inflected by today's agitated political climate. For example, Thomas Hirschhorn's stunning installation at Barbara Gladstone Gallery might suggest the answer is no. The Swiss artist's massive cave made of wood and duct tape kept to seductive blueprints belonging to installations of the '90s boom: a low-tech, narrative style, mapping, in part, contemporary politics onto an immersive environment with spectacular architectural roots. On the other end of the spectrum, Saint Petersburg-based Sergei Bugaev Afrika's concurrent installation at I-20 seemed discomfitingly real, incorporating into a sculptural installation a video made by Al Qaeda-backed Chechen rebels of an attack on Russian soldiers.

Perhaps most poignant in this context was Eddo Stern's Sheik Attack, 2000. A former Israeli soldier, Stern spliced together selections from the video games Settlers III, SumCity, Nuclear Strike, and Red Alert to compose a "fictional documentary" about the creation, scuttled idealism, and increasing militarism of his homeland. The projected sequence of short vignettes, linked by graphics that make each scene clear as a historical phase (or a different "level" in a game), provides visual metaphors for real events. In opening scenes, for instance, construction workers erect a single building in an empty landscape, representing the nation's folk origins; later, a seemingly boundless cityscape signifies a burgeoning Tel Aviv. …

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