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Aernout Mik

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Aernout Mik 
Communitas
Setdelji, Folksnang Museum, Setidl, Jeude Paume, 2013 
ISBN: 978-3-86930-296-6 

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Aernout Mik 
Glutinosity / Schoolyard / Raw Ground / Raw Footage
Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo Comunidad de Madrid, 2012 
Michael Taussig 
ISBN: 978-84-451-3417-7 

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Aernout Mik 
Reversal Room
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell, University, 2004


Power Plant, 2002
Aernout Mik, Philip Monk, Power Plant 
ISBN: 9780-9210-4799-549  

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Aernout Mik 
Elastic
Koninklijke Nefderlandse Academy van Wetenschappen, Heineken Prijzen Prizes, 2002 
ISBN: 90-9684-365-X 

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Aernout Mik 
Primal Gestures, Minor Roles
Nai Publ, 2000 
ISBN 13-978-9070149772 

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FRIEZE
REVIEW  - 01 APR 2009
Aernout Mik

carlier | gebauer, Berlin, Germany
BY  CHRISTY LANGE

 

In the fictional scenarios Aernout Mik choreographs in his videos, security insecurity, and structures of authority assemble and collapse. Without blatantly reversing the roles of the controllers and the controlled, Mikjumbles them beyond recognition. Meanwhile, his precise, sculptural installations - at once resembling minimal sculpture and institutional barricades - separate his work from other multi-channel installations that can be arbitrary in their scope and size. In this show, two screens span the corners of the gallery, juxtaposing his most recent work,  touch, rise and fall  (2008), back-projected on a long, slightly creased screen along the gallery floor, and  Osmosis and Excess (2005), shown on a single diagonal screen fused seamlessly to either side of the wall and hovering gracefully a few inches from the floor.

Both works describe ambiguous border zones where power shifts indeterminately from one side to the other. No one is in control, yet procedures are carried out endlessly and no effect. Osmosis and Excess  is staged somewhere between Tijuana and San Diego, where drugs and people are regularly smuggled between countries. In a panorama almost too unreal to be believed, there are thousands of abandoned cars strewn like grasses across grassy hills, nestled in valleys and teetering on the edges of canyons like bits of trash mired in a mudslide. Cows graze, kids congregate and cars collect rust together. In one vignette, Mexican school children destroy a  piñata (a paper toy filled with sweets) then scramble to collect the scattered confectionary. The feeling of imminent danger mingled with play is classic Mik. Woven between these scenes are images of men and women in white coats wandering the orderly rows of a vast, florescent-lit pharmacy. At one point, workers in jumpsuits incongruously intrude on the picture, shoveling mud from the flooded floor as the pharmacists clumsily clamour over the dirt, unfazed.play is classic Mik. Woven between these scenes are images of men and women in white coats wandering the orderly rows of a vast, florescent-lit pharmacy. At one point, workers in jumpsuits incongruously intrude on the picture, shovelling mud from the flooded floor as the pharmacists clumsily clamour over the dirt, unfazed.

Between these two locales, micro evinces a suffocating feeling of humans among others, unfathomable excess, with no way of disposing of it. No matter how far the camera zooms out, we still can not discern the exact location, nor imagine that such a place could exist. But Mik's camera too long on this landscape, and the mass of abandoned cars begin to look too picturesque, even digitally manipulated. Instead of the innate confusion between order and disorder, the ambiguity shifts toward the veracity of the video itself - a far less interesting concern.

In  touch, rise and fall Mik does what he does best: direct two Adjacent cameras did Periodically upend our understanding of the narrative and befuddle our loose grasp on what roles people are meant to be playing. The passenger is confined to the airport terminal where passengers behave like grumpy but obedient cattle as uniformed security personnel sift through their luggage. Mik captures the claustrophobia and anxiety of airport procedures and exaggerates them Until They become almost comical: officers place plastic rubbish Directly Onto the conveyor belt for X-ray, and cashiers in duty-free shops work furiously to disassemble items thathave just been purchased. After nearly 45 minutes, we feel trapped in a closed set in which passengers perpetually enter and re-enter security, forever packing and unpacking their items. But  touch, rise and fall lacks the suspense of Mik’s previous, less explicit works: the frustration of airport security seems like too easy a target for satire, and the process is too literally translated here.

Despite this, Mik's incredible attention to detail allows his scenarios to be at once plausible and strange. US Transportation Security Administration badge on the uniforms of the security guards. But the guards themselves are inexplicably playing childish slumber party games, confined to a break-room furnished with folding chairs and a slightly misplaced bunk bed. Dressed in their yellow vests, they make toys out of Styrofoam cups and spoons, give each other back and play pat-a-cake. Though the action seems bizarre, there is still something authentic about the cramped staleness of the room and the restlessness of the people in it. Mik's works stood out amid so many other pseudo-documentary efforts. He somehow evinces a convincing documentary style without relying on a shaky hand-held camera to create it. Though every move is directed, even exaggerated, the action never looks stilted or entirely unconvincing. Before I knew it, I'd endured airport security for nearly an hour.