/ HotShoe International. 2012 /
Sugar-Coated Cautionary Tales
In the Pantone world of Dutch artists Lernert and Sander, it seems as though butter wouldn’t melt, but then nothing is ever quite as it seems, is it? If their videos were narrated, they would begin with the words, “don’t be fooled, viewer… this story does not end happily”. With a preference for household items in monochrome settings this artist pair use their signature black humour and simple aesthetics to create small stories that provoke the viewer in the most effective ways. Like the darker underbelly of classic fairytales, sugar coated lessons and cautionary tales against the outcome of matters such as procrastination, revenge and the frustrations of being an artist are played out; a chocolate bunny is subjected to multiple deaths by melting whilst various items of household hardware exact revenge on a single, isolated egg. The videos are simple and communicative works, where illustrative commercial photography is indistinguishable from contemporary art.
As part of a 2-hour documentary about revenge for VPRO Television, Lernert and Sander were commissioned to create a series of short films illustrating their take on the theme of ‘Revenge’. Set to the somewhat epic soundtrack of a Sufjan Stevens record, the film simply and powerfully stages the destruction of a series of innocent eggs. Each time, the fragility of the egg is heightened as it perishes in a slow, violent fate at the hands of a variety of objects such as a bowling ball, a hammer and a shower of tennis balls. Quite possibly the most beguiling one of these videos is the most simple of all – in true Lernert and Sander style, it’s a simple, mundane scene. The components: a bottle of champagne (ready to pop) and an egg, right in the firing line. The objective: absolute revenge (quite what the egg did to deserve this retribution, I guess we’ll never know).
In a convergence between the still and the moving image, the scene is extended in time with the use of video, so that something as instantaneous as a champagne bottle popping can take over 2 minutes to happen. The trick here is that the artists employ the spatialised stasis of the photograph, but the duration of film and so our traditional notions of video and photography are confused – classic definitions of the photograph as something that cuts into the flow of time, and the video as something that embodies that flow are not so black and white anymore, and that’s frustratingly compelling to watch. There is a new type of temporality, just as it is constructed within this space. A trivial, fleeting moment becomes a performance, an event – it’s painfulness at once mesmerizing and terrifying.
Most of all, the piece is deliciously perverse – as with scenes of chaos in classic action films, we are able to delight in the gloriously delirious pleasure of watching something destruct in slow motion, as the cork finally frees itself from the bottle neck and shatters the egg as into hundreds of tiny fragments. Though perhaps not immediately clear, we are able to finally accept the lessons Lernert and Sander want us to learn about the nature of revenge – as we watch and wait, it’s easy to see that it is not, in fact the act itself that is maddening, but the anticipation, the frustration of the inactivity and the suspense.
In their surreal, colour pop world, Lernert and Sander create pieces that at once deliver the necessary message and reflect on the dual endeavor of making art and making a point. Their approach and response to each brief is truly unique, and each piece works as well in a fine art context as it does in a commercial sense. Next time you view a video by this wickedly clever pair, watch closely…it may not be immediately obvious but there’s sure to be an important lesson in there somewhere.
via Joanna L. Cresswell.