This I Played Tomorrow
The Power Plant, Toronto
Like a documentary filmmaker, Christian Jankowski relies on the public and the social interactions that take place between him and the world to frame his practice. Internationally acclaimed, this Berlin-based artist first garnered attention with “Telemistica” at the 1999 Venice Biennale and, following in 2002, at the Whitney Biennial in New York with “The Holy Artwork.”
“This I Played Tomorrow” (2003) is celebrated both for its artistic and cinematic merits. Exhibited as a film and video installation at Toronto’s Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery and screened in conjunction with Toronto’s International Film Festival (the film was made at the famous Cinecittà film studio in Rome), both the film and the video closely explore the relationship between the artist and the audience.
The installation is composed of two parts. The first consists of four television monitors, each one showcasing Jankowski in the interview process, recorded by him with a handheld camcorder. In the past, Jankowski has conducted random interviews and invited children, customs officers, psychics, and amateur actors to participate in his projects; in this case, he relies on the confessions and fantasies of aspiring actors. Outside the Cinecittà studio, actors were approached by the artist and asked to describe their ideal acting role. He also questioned the participants more generally about the role of cinema in society. In the second part of the dark gallery space is the film projection. In the film, the artist shaped and realized the participants’ responses and desires by using Cinecittà’s costumes, stage, and equipment. Jankowski magnificently cast the young actors in their dream role and shot them in 35 mm format within a cinematic narrative structure. The viewer sits in the gallery in front of the projection and watches the film unfold while mulling over the reality of the picture. What was identified on the video monitors as a private exchange between the artist and his participants is transformed into casual seductions, into something massively exploitative and perverse. The feature is a dramatic genre of cinematic production, here exhibited in a gallery.
Since the 1970s, film and video have become increasingly common artistic tools used to articulate contemporary culture and ideas. In “This I Played Tomorrow,” Jankowski examines the boundaries of what the viewer has come to expect from film and video, allowing us to reflect on how the medium’s popularity changes the definition of contemporary art and also how it inherently becomes a much more interactive and personal experience. “This I Played Tomorrow” brings reality and fiction closely together. Jankowski does not use any conventional narrative or mise-en-scène strategies; instead he projects the intersections between the viewer’s perceptions of representation and the social realities that one might identify as personal experience.
In “This I Played Tomorrow,” the actors are quickly turned into movie stars, or better yet, characters. Although there exists a touching sadness to this fictional premiere, as the film acts as an impediment to the real stardom the actors expressed and desired, it is successful as this feature is twisted into something much more about truth and human nature. While the actors are masked and glamorously disguised, they also seem vulnerable and overexposed. These fictions are metaphors of the realities of the subconscious, and the artifice is always the art object. Jankowski’s fictional approach to the world and the social interactions that take place within it are often unpredictable and the results at once transparent, performative, and cerebral.
Denise Frimer is a writer on contemporary art and culture based in Toronto.