Vesna Pavlovic, Werner Herzog and the 2012 Whitney Biennial



I've got Vesna Pavlovic on the brain. I wrote a profile about her for this year's People Issue, and I loved her installation at Zeitgeist (see photos I took of it here). Her work is about extremely cerebral ideas, but she creates it to be seen and thought about, not locked away in some collection or museum peopled by art world elitists. I could, and have, gone on about her work for hours. It lends itself to that kind of easy conversation.

Anyway, Sara Estes wrote a great review of her show at Zeitgeist for Art Now Nashville that I thoroughly enjoyed. I'd been wanting an excuse to cross-post it here, and since the People Issue came out yesterday, obviously Vesna's been on my mind. Still, I was surprised when I read Roberta Smith's review of the 2012 Whitney Biennial and found that Werner Herzog — one of my very favorite filmmakers, someone I consider the Carl Sagan of our time — is making video installation art that's in a similar vein. Check it:


Another filmmaker who stands out is Werner Herzog, who contributes “Hearsay of the Soul,” a ravishing five-screen digital projection, to his first-ever art show. An unexpected celebration of the handmade by the technological — and a kind of collage — it combines greatly magnified close-ups of the voluptuous landscape etchings of the Dutch artist Hercules Segers (1589-1638), whom Herzog considers “the father of modernity in art,” with some justification. The shifting scroll-like play of images is set to sonorous music, primarily by the Dutch cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger, who also appears briefly on screen, playing his heart out. I dare you not to cry.

Compare that to what I said about Vesna's work:

The main piece in the show was an installation of five projection screens set in a cluster in the middle of the gallery. A few slide carousels (my late-to-the-party obsession with Mad Men came in handy here) sped through a series of exotic, archaic images all at once, and so the installation was always changing. The result is a series of completely mechanical landscapes that made me feel like I was seeing someone else's life flash before my eyes. It was sweet and sad all at once, and the annoying buzz of the projectors made sure that I wasn't overwhelmed by my own sentimentality.

... And what Sara wrote about Vesna's newer works:

Now she has taken to exploring the discolored slides of historical artworks, like those that can be found today collecting dust in thousands of college libraries across the world. The new subject matter suggests a shift in dialogue that goes beyond photography to include the broader pedagogy of art history.

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