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Hirshhorn Celebrates the Fifth Anniversary of Black Box and Announces “Black Box: Superflex”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Black Box: Superflex
Pictured: Still of “Flooded McDonald’s” (2009), courtesy of the artists and Peter Blum Gallery, New York. Produced by the Propeller Group in cooperation with The South London Gallery, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the Oriel Mostyn Gallery and the Danish 

The Hirshhorn inaugurated a space dedicated to recent film and video work in fall 2005. In the five years since, Black Box has presented a diverse program of established and emerging artists, including Francis Alÿs, Rivane Neuenschwander, Kimsooja, Mircea Cantor, Hiraki Sawa and Chris Chong Chan Fui. The artists represent a broad range of nations, from Romania and Sweden  to Malaysia and Brazil. Their working methods have been equally varied, ranging from Phoebe Greenberg’s use of a full cast and crew and considerable postproduction resources to Takeshi Murata’s digital manipulation of “found-object” footage paired with sound from a collaborator he met online to Semiconductor’s melding of photography and digital animation.

“Museum exhibitions typically involve years of planning, but Black Box is our quick-response venue, offering the latest from the international smorgasbord of strong new media work,” said curator Kelly Gordon, who has overseen the program since it began in 2005.

Thus far, each exhibition has showcased single-channel works by a solo artist or collaborative team. In the near future, Black Box will be relocated to a larger space to accommodate multichannel artworks and a wider range of media platforms. The last two exhibitions in the current space—“Black Box: Superflex,” on view Aug. 9 to Nov. 28, and “Black Box: Hans Op de Beeck,” opening Dec. 6—feature artists who probe ever more deeply into what makes new media “new.”

Superflex is the Danish art collective based in Copenhagen and Rio de Janeiro whose members are Jakob Fenger (b. Roskilde, 1968), Rasmus Nielsen (b. Hjørring, 1969) and Bjørnstjerne Reuter Christiansen (b. Copenhagen, 1969). Since 1993, the trio has staged unconventional artworks that use social intervention as a means of calling attention to such issues as democratization, environmentalism and consumerism. Their “actions” and provocations have ranged from an initiative that helped Thai pig farmers convert barnyard excrement into marketable biofuel to an urban project for which the artists conspired with convenience-store owners to disorient customers at the checkout by informing them their “purchases” would be free.

Commercial imagery, such as the logos and signature color combinations that are increasingly inescapable aspects of the visual landscape, has inspired contemporary artists since before the Pop era. For “Flooded McDonald’s” (2009), a 21-minute digital video looped for this projection, Superflex meticulously constructed a life-size replica of an actual restaurant of the fast-food chain. The artists borrow the cinematic vocabulary of documentaries, ads and disaster movies to create this suspenseful, ambiguous drama. For reasons unknown, the patrons and staff have vacated the premises, leaving viewers behind to watch, think and speculate.

Black Box is organized by Gordon. Support for the Black Box program is provided in part by Lawrence Cohen/Ringler Associates.

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