Mark Boulos’ ‘Antigone and The Gates of Damascus’ on view at LAXART

13 September 2014 — 18 October 2014

Mark Boulos’ three-screen video art installation Antigone is on view at LA><ART in Los Angeles from September 13 through October 21.

Antigone is a video art installation inspired by Sophocles’ theatrical interpretation of the mythical character. Within the piece, three actors take turns telling a distinct story to compose three acts. In each an actor speaks candidly, spontaneously and truthfully into the camera reciting an incident from her life. At the same time, in unison, the other two actors reenact her words on the two screens flanking the original. In this triangular array of floating video screens, personal narrative and dramatic performance occur simultaneously, making the documentary account indistinguishable from enacted performances.

Method acting

Initially, the documentary focused on each subject’s training in the acting techniques of Constantin Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg, known as the Method. In these interviews each individual recalled past experiences of rebellion, love and loss that inform their craft. The intimate portraits and reenactments comprising Antigone have been edited identically, synchronized, installed as sculptural elements and merged into a single refrain. This uniform voice addresses us as both the protagonists, such as those filling cinema or television shows, and the non-individuated performers that would have filled the Greek chorus in antiquity. Coalescing the singular actors within a collective dirge, Antigone erases the dividing line between affect and recollection. Yet, in its highly mediated presentation of these new Antigones, the artist invites the viewer to differentiate the real story from the reenacted.

Though Boulos’ version of Antigone responds to classical theater, the artist revisits themes found in ancient myth to ask whether twenty-first century art can represent tragedy. Now more than a century old, what relationship does moving image have to lived experience? By using multiple screens synched as a chorus, Antigone layers one story across a field of multiple narratives, effectively cancelling out the possibility of any one authentic version. As an installation, the simultaneity and multiplicity of the portraits pose existential turmoil as a rhythmic as well as sculptural presence. Because the three-channel projection folds direct accounts within the actors’ trained reenactments of sense memory and emotion, Antigone has the force of a psychoanalytic breakthrough while being a truth-telling documentary at heart. The sculptural element of the installation is not merely an aesthetic device. Familiar white-cube display strategies allow three different individuals telling three different stories to make the Method manifest as mimesis, echo, repetition and recollection, integrated. Affect bolsters the truth only to find it disappear. In its disjointed yet synced relay the installation replicates the artificial speed of personal experience portrayed on the screens filling everyday life in the twenty-first century.

Antigone is curated by Andrea Bellini together with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Yann Chateigné. Antigone was initiated in 2013 by LAXART Curator Matthew Schum to inaugurate the Occasional.

About the artist

Mark Boulos (American, b. 1975) is an artist and filmmaker who lives and works in Amsterdam and London. He studied visual art at the Rijksakademie in Holland as a Fulbright Scholar, documentary filmmaking at the National Film and Television School in England, and philosophy at Swarthmore College and Deep Springs College.