AES+F, Inverso Mundusby Katy Diamond Hamer
SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah | October 4, 2018 - February 3, 2019
The four-person artist collective AES+F creates universes that are as familiar as they are foreign and as appealing as they are grotesque. Having actively exhibited since solidifying as a collective in 1995, the Moscow-based Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky, and Vladimir Fridkes use actors, models, and a narrative often rife with political and sexual innuendo in their work. They aggregate content for what ultimately results in an engaging, cinematic experience. Their film Inverso Mundus on view at the SCAD Museum of Art, was first exhibited as part of the 2015 Biennale di Venezia. In Savannah and curated by Humberto Moro, the film is shown on a curved screen, stretching floor to ceiling, in a dark room where visitors are invited to sit or lounge on beanbag chairs for the full thirty-eight minute duration. It’s as if all the previous work they’ve made over the years, ruminating on particular ideations, morphisms, and political implications, has transpired into what could be described as a digitized painting and a battle of the sexes. In Inverso Mundus the power of dynamic is granted to the women present. Actors—male and female figures—portray time, beauty, and socio-economic insecurities in the board room, the factory assembly line and construction sites. The actors bodies are utilized by the artists in the same way paint is used to complete a thought, the moving figure builds the composition.
Inverso Mundus (2015) finds the collective exploring disorder through a slow building melodrama. It is voluminous, ostentatious, and timely. Is it any coincidence that it was made in the moment leading up to the current political state of the United States? On the coattails of Brett Kavanaugh being confirmed to the Supreme Court and the #MeToo movement in full-swing, Inverso Mundu may have preemptively forecasted the climate of today. Even if made in 2015, its revenge-tinged narrative (made clear by young women tying up their male peers and putting them in various torture devices), is much more pertinent today then it was even three short years ago. It feels both archaic and relevant, the technology on the verge of being seemingly outdated. The digital layers create a proposed universe, as the Latin title suggests, World Upside Down, an improbable crystal ball at a time where so many things are still uncertain.
Since their earliest incarnations, AES+F has challenged hierarchal domination by using a choreographed performative gesture evident in the prescribed movement of their figures, born from the tips of their fingers and collective consciousness. On historicizing AES+F, SCAD Museum curator Humberto Moro states, “I personally don't think that the construction of [digital] 3D environments is that distant from past pictorial movements such as Baroque painting, in terms of having a vocabulary of surfaces, materials, and styles.” He is right, of course, as it’s impossible to not think of the Renaissance and entanglement of bodies—specifically from the Mannerist period—when viewing their work. Anyone familiar with the biomorphic demons found in frescos across Europe will not be overwhelmed by the creatures that permeate Inverso Mundus, which are fantastical and possibly products of nuclear war. Italian Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli (1445-1523) often portrayed extreme visions of hell with an imaginative conception of winged beasts. But while the movement of Signorelli’s creatures was left to the imaginations of the audience, the hybrid animals that fly through Inverso Mundus are products of animated digital collage. Taking a cue from a symbolist past, AES+F constructed an environment that is as industrial as it is dream-like.
In a time when the current political climate is infiltrating everything, Moro, a young Mexican curator, sought out the Russian collective as a way to redefine what he calls “cultural generalizations and misinterpretations,” part of an ongoing contemporary discourse. In the academic plane of the SCAD Museum of Art, the film takes on another level of discourse as it offers a way of seeing the world hand-in-hand with dialectic discourse. AES+F delve into challenging social constructs, through lush imagery and Inverso Mundus is but a stepping stone in a much larger area begging to be explored.
ContributorKaty Diamond Hamer