Troubling Space: The Summer Sessions

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Troubling Space: The Summer Sessions
'Kings of the Hill' by Yael Bartana, 2003

Artist Yael Bartana's video camera closes in on a hoard of aggressive-looking four-by-fours as they wheel-spin in red sand. The vehicles are attempting to scale the impossible angles of the coastal hills outside of Tel Aviv. A portrait of this popular off-roading pastime, there is a violent machismo relayed by the loud and repetitive strains of these revving jeeps. Similarly threatening are the obscuring hands of the soldiers who surround the artist Avi Mograbi in his filmwork 'Details 2 & 3' (2004), using their palms in an attempt to conceal his lens's view of an Israeli military post. Deftly addressing the idea of politicized spaces, the effects of agitation and claustrophobia, these two pieces are among the most compelling in this broad, guest-curated group show.

Works either confront the idea of contentious boundaries, the territory of changing economical climates, or the contemporary role played by simulated spaces. The result is a fairly mixed bag, ranging from astute choices, including a film by Francis Alÿs, to the rather literal inclusion of Walead Beshty's 'FedEx' sculptures – glass works that bare the wounds of their international border-crossing – and the outright baffling selection of Haegue Yang's 'Medicine Men' (2010) (ghastly shamanistic totems made of wigs and lampshades).

The 'Summer Sessions' are an ambitious educational add-on, offering the opportunity to attend 'demanding' discussions that spring from rubrics such as 'Spaces of Distopia/Utopia'. With or without such schooling, in the face of the works by Bartana and Mograbi, it's undeniable that this is a pressing area of artistic practice. One wonders whether an unfettered experience of these often difficult works, rather than a confused mélange, would have allowed for more space to engage with what is a compelling subject.

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