Sunday, November 25, 2012
Black Box: DEMOCRACIA
When: through January 13, 2013
Once again, I'm happy to have seen an offering from the Hirshhorn's "Black Box" series of videos. Granted, they're odd, but in a good way. I find myself thinking about these pieces after I've watched them, and not in the way I'm usually thinking about exhibits at the Hirshhorn.
Democracia is a Madrid-based artists' collective known for its socio-political work including performances, public engagement action, printed books and circulars and video installations. This video, entitled "Ser y Durar" (which means To Exist and To Persist), is a collaboration between the collective and a group of Spanish traceurs. What is a traceur, you ask? Well, I didn't know either, until I saw this show. A traceur is a person who plays the street sport parkour. Still in the dark? Me too - parkour is a sport in which people climb and jump over obstacles in order to reach a goal. Apparently, this is a global sub-cultural phenomenon. Just goes to show how uninformed I am about global sub-cultural phenomena - makes me wonder what else I'm missing...
The video consists of footage of several members of a traceur group (are they a team? are they competing against one another? I don't know.) as they race through a Spanish civil cemetery. Civil cemeteries were reserved for those unable to be buried in Catholic cemeteries. I'm not sure if the location has a significance, or if it just provides a good space for parkour.
The five people jump over headstones, as pictured above, and the acrobatics is amazing to watch. Especially when you consider that the surfaces in a cemetery are distinctly unforgiving, it's quite an impressive display. Everyone emerges unscathed, and the end of the film sees the group happily walking down the street. Outside the room where the video is playing are hanging red hoodies, either the ones used in the video or ones exactly like them. I noted that they were alarmed, which, so far as I know, nothing else in the Hirshhorn is. There's some great commentary to be made about what is valuable in our society, I'm sure.
Verdict: This is an interesting video, in keeping with the Black Box tradition. Worth a look for the athleticism of the performers, even if you're not a fan of parkour.