Contemporary artists use all sorts of artistic strategies in order to generate a creative demarche, e.g., deconstruction, alienation, contextual displacements or antinomian juxtaposition. This presentation aims to make explicit a different kind of strategy in which the common approach of an artistic medium is used as a background to do something completely different. In such cases of so-called medial inversion, artists take the leading tendency in a genre as a stepping stone and radically work against it, for instance by returning to an outmoded mode of production.
By way of illustration, an analysis of two different cases is given. The theatre performance ‘Springville’ (2009) of the Belgian performance artist Miet Warlop puts the many-sided image of catastrophe on stage. Instead of developing a dramatic play supported by different technical media, Warlop skips text, uses simple living props as characters, and returns to the lively and cheerful slapstick of the silent film age. The precariousness of this live event, which probes a peculiar suspension due to the possible failure of the different acts, brings in a special political dimension that underscores the vulnerability of our contemporary culture.
The documentary art film 'Not Waving, But Drowning' (2009) from the Belgian director Elias Grootaers brings a film portrait of Indian refugees intercepted by the Belgian coast police during their journey to London. Although the documentary art genre of the last decade is heavily experimenting with exhibitionistic testimonies and performative approaches, Grootaers inverts this tendency. In contrast, he chooses a subtle and poetical aesthetics within a classical, observative stance. Due to this atypical positioning, the power and authenticity of the film is maximized.
|Keywords:||Medial Inversion, Artistic Strategies, Documentary Art, Theatre, G. Debord, Catastrophe, Precariousness, Homo Sacer, Refugees, Aesthetics, N. Bourriaud, T. Adorno, J. Rancière, S. Bruzzi, S. Žižek, B. Brecht|
Professor, Theory Department, Academy of Fine Arts Ghent, University College Ghent, Ghent, Belgium