Parker's Box


Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine
Bill Burns, Paul Destieu, Heidrun Holzfeind, Jaime Pitarch, Pascual Sisto, Lucia Stránaiová

November 23 - December 21, 2012

Heidrun Holzfeind (1972, Lienz, Austria) has filmed a typical American Demolition Derby (Demo Derby, 2001), a motor sport in which participants deliberately ram each other’s vehicles in an attempt to destroy them – the winner being the last one whose car can still move. The metaphorical implications of this macho, dog-eat-dog, pseudo sport are innumerable – one of the most obvious being the return of men to their most primitive state, where the impulse for survival demands the destruction of all challengers. Holzfeind’s film is not a documentary as such, but while she does simply document what is there, her sharp outsider’s eye picks up on the almost science fictional absurdity, and “post-civilized” aura of the curious events she is witnessing. That the individual’s survival instinct here generates the principle of destruction to the verge of extinction, mirrors the plight of the planet to a disturbing degree, and this may be the common ground of an exhibition that we’ve already heard described as a selection of “wacky” works. Wacky they may be, but that in no way means that they are not pertinent and revealing of inner truths concerning the global malaise and the multitude of socio-economic contradictions that have become the givens of 21st Century life on earth!

Even when it’s entirely absent from these works, the American presence and its Jekyll and Hyde identity seem omnipresent here, as they often do in global society. The plastic soldiers in the video presented by Jaime Pitarch (1963, Barcelona, Spain) are of unidentified nationality. However, with the US being continuously involved in wars somewhere on the planet for more than fifty years now, Pitarch’s video, Invading Forces under Fire of Bombcorn, unavoidably conjures the feeling that the marines are not far away. In Pitarch’s pithy piece, the plastic figures are set up in a microwave oven, guns pointing outwards, protecting their flag in the center. Popcorn kernels are sprinkled among the readied troops, and the microwave set in motion, so that the corn begins to explode, gradually annihilating the soldiers who ultimately disappear under the sheer volume of exploding corn. As in many of the works on view, there is an underlying tongue-in-cheek humor at play, but this operates as a device to welcome the spectator in, before subjecting him or her to unexpected and perhaps unpleasant revelations…

In Fade Out by Paul Destieu (1982, Cahors, France), a familiar rock and roll drum set finds itself in the somewhat other worldly landscape of the piles of gravel in a quarry. Gravel begins to fall onto the drums until they are entirely buried, conjuring up a real sensation of Weird Scenes inside the Gold Mine. Being wired for sound inside the drums, the falling gravel continues emitting sound from the drums throughout the process of burial. As a symbol of rock and roll – the music of the modern, (decadent) West, the gagging and disappearance of the drum set in Destieu’s piece is open to interpretation. The artist has spoken about his preoccupation with the collapse of established systems, and as such, it may not be a coincidence that Fade Out was made in 2011, the year that the overthrow of tyranny seemed to be contagious.

The content of Bill Burns’ (1957, Saskatchewan, Canada) audio piece – produced in 2012 as a limited edition vinyl record, is succinctly explained by its title: Dogs and Boats and Airplanes Children’s Choir. The artist worked with a children’s choir in Toronto, Canada, arranging their voices in imitations of the sounds of dogs, boats and airplanes. Undertaken with great seriousness, the project ends up providing a harmonious cacophony of strange but recognizable sounds produced by the (innocent) filter of children’s voices. Humorous? Idiosyncratic?...Disturbing perhaps? Dogs, boats and airplanes are all things that can be viewed as items capable of representing luxury in the lives of the wealthy, while at the same time being sometimes synonymous with danger, and sometimes even with domestic tragedy, as well as war and aggression…

The power of ambiguity can be a great tool for artists, and this is unquestionably at work in Weird Scenes inside the Gold Mine both in terms of curatorial and artistic intent. This is perhaps nowhere truer than in 28 Years in the Implicate Order by Los Angeles based artist, Pascual Sisto (1975, Ferrol, Spain). Sisto’s video shows us a typical shopping mall parking lot, virtually empty of vehicles at the time of filming, but otherwise fully occupied by the strange spectacle of a large number of bouncing balls, perpetually hitting the tarmac with no apparent help from humans, and from time to time almost achieving synchronization in their action. Traffic going about its business in the distance makes what’s going on seem almost banal, but there is nevertheless an ominous sensation that something is wrong, that atoms are no longer acting like they should, that the supernatural is finally taking over, or that science and science-fiction are finally aligning themselves, and that it may be for the worst.

The last work to be encountered in the exhibition is Bush (I) by the young Slovakian artist, Lucia Stránaiová (1987, Bratislava, Slovakia). The piece shown is the first part of an ambitious trilogy of works, each involving three screens. Filmed in a forest in Slovakia, the spectator is put in extremely close proximity with a blond-maned, muscle-bound horse, and we are quickly conscious of the imposing size and mass of the animal, which seems unable or unwilling to move, as if the victim of a spell condemning him to immobility for a hundred years. The fairy-tale atmosphere of the forest is compounded by the heavy sound of the horse’s breath contrasting with constant twittering birdsong, and it all seems timeless in its hyperrealism. And yet on closer scrutiny, it becomes clear that the horse is not ageless – he may even be at the end of a tough, working life, but his presence is mesmerizing. The artist has stated that she wants to “make the viewer forget about his/her rational and sociological experience…I want to produce a new experience for him/her, that would later possibly project to normal life perceptions and attitudes”. The intention is ambitious but not unrealistic on the evidence of this piece, at least.

Echoing the position of Lucia Stránaiová, Weird Scenes inside the Gold Mine, has no specific message. Its ambition is to offer food for thought, and perhaps stimulate some lateral thinking in relation to the entity that is the world we all inhabit and which we have all contributed towards making such a bizarre, confusing, checkered, lumbering, lurching, stimulating, precarious, moving, frightening, daunting, dysfunctional, and amazing place.


Exhibition View, Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine
Photo: Etienne Frossard


Exhibition View, Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine with installation view of: Lucia Stránaiová, Bush (I), three channel video, 5 min, 52 sec; Photo: Etienne Frossard


Still from: Heidrun Holzfeind, Demo Derby, 2001,
Single channel video, 9 min, Edition of 5.


Still from: Jaime Pitarch, Invading Forces Under Fire of Bombcorn, 2002, Single channel video, 6 min 30 sec, Edition of 5, courtesy of Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York.


Still from: Paul Destieu, Fade Out, 2011,
Single channel video, 12 min 30 sec, Edition of 5.


Installation view of: Bill Burns, Dogs and Boats and Airplanes Children's Choir, 2012, vinyl record accompanied by book and poster; Photo: Etienne Frossard


Still from: Pascual Sisto, 28 Years in the
Implicate Order
, 2005, Single channel video, Edition of 3


Still from: Lucia Stránaiová, Bush (I), three channel video, 5 min, 52 sec, Edition of 5


Bill Burns
Paul Destieu
Heidrun Holzfeind
Jaime Pitarch
Pascual Sisto
Lucia Stránaiová

Parker's Box
193 Grand St. Brooklyn, NY 11211