A Funny Turbulence. An Interview with Assaf Gruber on 28/09/2011

Assaf Gruber, 'Joseph', 2011, Courtesy of the Artist

LILIANA RODRIGUES: Adam Budak has already referenced how your artistic practice “deploys and simultaneously deconstructs a variety of formal languages”, and how “it is gestural as it is performative”. Your most recent installation, titled ‘A Great Big Joke’ (2011), is no exception. It joins a two-dimensional historical painting, moving image, and sculptural elements with a performative aspect to them. Why do you feel the necessity of working a multiplicity of vocabularies within the same piece?

ASSAF GRUBER: Because comedy happens in threes.
A Great Big Joke‘ is consists of three elements: a highly pixelized cellular phone photograph of a painting by the French Caravaggisti Nicolas Tournier. It belongs to the ‘club’ of iconic crucifixion images, but it is not one that we can easily identify. The second is a short looped extract from the film ‘The Swimmer’ (Frank Perry, 1968). The loop shows a man climbing up a mountain, an image associated with the cinematic representation of the myth of Sisyphus, which recurs throughout many films. The last is the different sculptural elements made from photosensitive paper and steel, which I call ‘Isomorphs’ due to their ‘repetitive energy’.
This ensemble of familiar/non-familiar imageries and forms attempts to achieve a peculiar déjà vu experience where the viewer is being held somewhere in between awkwardness and ‘terrible beauty’.

LR: You used the expression “crime scene” in reference to ‘Great Big Joke’. Can you explain?

AG: Maybe because there is something transgressive in it, which leads to a feeling that something bad is about to happen or already did. But then, the overcharged use of imageries neutralizes the drama and the whole remains a great big joke.

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