Lecture hall of mirrors
How the media reflects reality and how people realise fantasy in their own lives - Post-Modernism strikes back at the National Museum of Contemporary Arts
Media’s perception of events and how people understand reportage is at the centre of video artist Sean Snyder’s exhibition, but the US-born and Berlin-based artist’s need to intellectualise his work obscures the effect of the material in favour of aesthetic and sociological critique.
Using modern theatres of conflict, Snyder focuses on media representation in North Korea and Iraq. ‘Casio, Seiko, Sheraton, Toyota, Mars 2004-2005’ is a video-essay on corporate brands in the Middle East, detailing how journalists, making an inventory of what Saddam Hussein kept in his secret bunker, mentioned his passion for Mars bars. It also shows how, at the beginning of the First Gulf War, the Ishtar Sheraton hotel in Baghdad was renounced by its parent brand. The hotel then became a flashpoint of attacks where collateral damage also included, presumably, the Sheraton brand itself.
Snyder attempts to compare different accounts of the capture of Saddam Hussein in ‘The Site 2004-2005’ and questions the veracity of the news reporting on the event. His notes claim “the discrepancy between textual and photographic evidence suggests a series of cultural projections”. This means the words and pictures in the reports were not the same. Snyder tries to examine different views on news but, like much of this exhibition, the visitor feels as though he or she is watching a slide show for a media studies class. This is the gallery acting as lecture hall – it may be thought-provoking, but is it art?
Snyder also shows a classic Romanian example of Post-Modernist kitsch. Romanian millionaire and convicted corruptionist, Ilie Alexandru, built a replica of the ranch from 1980s TV show Dallas in Slobozia. “The ranch transcribes in architecture a televisual model, functioning like a copy without an original,” says the gallery notes. For Alexandru, a symbol that he has become a wealthy man is to create a fictional house from a TV series in his own country.
Thus, Snyder shows that reality often reflects a fiction, which is a distortion of reality. But by presenting this in a gallery, the artist is creating a work from only one perspective, his own, which in itself is a biased point of view and open to interpretation.
The exhibition becomes trapped in a semiologic storm full of such sound and fury that visitors are left wondering if it signifies anything at all.
National Museum of Contemporary Arts (MNAC)
Calea 13 Septembrie entrance
Until 6 December