PETER LIECHTI (1951-2014)
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帽子上的洞 (1991, Art video, DigiBeta, VHS, 32')
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Peter Liechti: A Hole in the Hat

(14.10.2010, Kunsthalle Gwangju, Korea)

As you come out of the Culture Complex subway stop and step next to the GIC, you cannot but help notice the intrusive, black, overly-sized cargo box facing you with the words printed in orange: Kunsthalle, meaning a facility mounting temporary art exhibitions. Fingers crossed that the Kunsthalle is not that temporary, as the display so far is pretty impressive.

The etoy.CORPORATION exhibition opened around two months ago at the Kunsthalle Gwangju. As part of it etoy “presents projects dealing with concepts that interrogate our relation to the technology in everyday life.”

The screening began with A Hole in the Hat, which at the very base of its presentation is documentation about Andy Guhl’s performance with Nam June Paik in 1991. A collection of TVs from the late eighties and early nineties surrounds half of a room, in front of which is a piano where Nam June Paik sits. On the screens are colorful images, almost tie-dye in effect, reminiscent of patterns and colors from the nineties, along with a man breathing deeply into a microphone. You can hear Beethoven in the background gradually getting faster and faster. Two men are then viewed creating sounds with remote controls. There was something nostalgic in use of old machinery, creating a sense of the inevitable growth of technology from the not so distant past of the nineties to the present day. The accumulation of loud, distorted noises is invasive upon the audience’s ears. There is a haunting element to the sounds that make you squirm in your seat.

The music, if you can call it that, appears as if it is troubled, alluding to the old piano fighting against the new technology of the nineties. It poses the question whether music can be made from almost a catastrophe of sounds, or whether it just turns into white noise. After a few minutes I became uncomfortable watching the sounds and needed to break myself away. As I wandered to the bar to top-up on free beer and pretzels I peered over the audience from the back. I realized I wasn’t the only one who was moving around and perhaps the purpose of the performance was to make the audience feel perturbed, pushing their boundaries in a situation they would perhaps typically not be comfortable with. The movie focused on the audience at the performance and it appeared that they too were fussing, reflecting the current atmosphere.

When the canned laughter drew the movie to a prolonged ending, I was relieved but still interested and I felt challenged, almost craving more.

Selina Orrell

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