Timeless simulation

By | Art & Design
Scenapse Helios, 2013, Courtesy of Gazelly Art House

Simply titled Aziz & Cucher, a new show opened last week at the Gazelli Art House in Mayfair, dedicated to the collaborative work of New-York based artists Anthony Aziz (American, b. 1961) and Sammy Cucher (Venezuelan, b. 1958). The show will be open until the 9th of March, and focuses on the artists’ recent body of work based on the digital manipulation of landscape images.

The artists have experimented in a variety of media, and are masters in the use of photography as a tool for their fine arts projects. Their work is well-known to both critics and the public. Since their start in the early 90’s Aziz & Cucher have extensively exhibited in the US and abroad with shows in the UK, Spain and Israel and their work is currently present in prominent collections worldwide including San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art and the Fond National d’Art Contemporain in Paris.

The show at the Gazelli Art House is organized through two very different moments; the ground floor of the gallery displays the installation “The time of the Empress” with black and white digitally animated architectural drawings and another video installation from the series or works “Scenapse”. On the first floor of the gallery instead the prints from “Scenapse” portray colorful landscape images.

Time of Empress, Media Installation from "Some People" 2012, Courtesy of Gazelli Art House

Time of Empress, Media Installation from “Some People” 2012, Courtesy of Gazelli Art House

“The time of the Empress”(2012) is an installation composed of five panels with animated drawings which was formerly part of the exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Art “Some People”. The exhibition, which was focused on the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, reflected the artists’ historical views and anxieties related to these events. The animated drawings show the digital construction and destruction of building towers in a looped video. The obvious reference to the 9/11 events as well as the archetype of the tower as symbol of power (and obviously a biblical reference to the Babel Tower) communicate the repetitive and cyclical condition of historical events such as construction and destructions of empires and civilizations (for the project the artists also referred to a quote from the Bible from the Book of Ecclesiastes which refers to the this unchanging condition of history). The installation is certainly the most interesting part of the show both for the captivating character of the computer-generated images and for the communicative power it has on the viewer.

video installation from "Scenapse" series

video installation from “Scenapse” series

On the other hand the series of prints and the video installation from “Scenapse” series (here displayed for the first time) are not based on social or historical meditation and engagement. We can say that what appears as a purely aesthetic digression on images of landscapes is in fact a window opened on a crafted place inspired by what was once called the real. Analyzing the prints in the broader context of the artists’ production it is clear the affinity with the authors’ previous investigation on the blurred definition of the real typical of postmodern culture. Somehow paraphrasing Jean Baudrillard’s definition of simulacra as the contemporary surrogate of reality, Aziz and Cucher investigate the definition and concept of the category. Claiming that simulation is the only truth to trust they have clearly located their work in the actual and metaphorical place of the cyberspace which they see as the locus of the intertwined (rather than opposed) dimensions of human and non-human, reality and dream, artificial and natural, pathological and normal.

The visual impact of the prints is quite intense and the blurred ungraspable contours of the elements that constitute these landscapes evoke impressionist paintings. Nevertheless, where those where still linked to the actual landscape here and now and to the human eye which perceives it, in the case of Aziz and Cucher’s prints we are transported into a timeless non-place which, even if maintaining the characteristics of a familiar landscape or place at the same time evoke a sense of estrangement and drag the viewer into a different dimension of which he becomes part, erasing the boundaries between real and dream, picture and spectator, subject and object.

What is the impact of Aziz and Cucher’s work on cultural discourse? What are the challenges that it offers to the viewer/spectator?

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