‘An international subconscious awareness of capitalism’ is the first solo-show of Argentinian artist Liv Schulman at the Venetian gallery A plus A .
Through a series of videos, it explores the forces that act on our daily existence, shaping its meaning and essence. From the politics of post-colonialism to a fluid definition of sexuality, the artist asks us to rethink our notions of identity and the ‘politically correct’.
A so-called woozy face opens the title, voluntarily, acting as a metaphor for the general atmosphere imbuing Schulman’s work. Confused, hungover, dizzy, outcast, unstable… this emoji symbolically encapsulates many of the ‘identities’ the artist represents in her work. In her videos, Schulman’s starting point is the written word, in all its forms. Producing filmed discourse, she shows the effect that material and immaterial economies have on all of us. No matter what the setting is, be it a crowded plaza or an abandoned suburban area, her videos always address the viewer upfront. Her technique of talking directly to the camera urges the audience to actively deal with the issues raised by the protagonists of Schulman’s films. The work demands a response.
Yet the solution can never be found in the videos themselves. These are, indeed, narrated in a continuous ‘stream of consciousness’, spoken in various languages, but never fully understood, nor understandable. The fluid soliloquies that make up the films evoke the alienation of contemporary individuals in their desperate, and generally helpless, search for sense. The protagonists might seem to offer a survival strategy– a sense, a defined identity, a solution… Yet, interweaving post-colonialism, aesthetics, money, politics, psychology and sexuality, the critique remains rooted against the devastating effect politics have on us. Capitalism, to the artist, is everywhere felt. The way to escape it, if there’s one, is by creating new forms of dialogue that do not stem from the typical middle-class, straight, white, secure man.
The experience created by the gallery coherently disrupts the norm of looking. At the entrance, misshapen, at times almost anthropomorphic pillows welcome visitors in. Soft and comfortable, they nonetheless accompany visitors in their experience of watching something confusing and frustrating. Some leather-looking ‘hands’, creepy fetishes, protrude from the walls, offering headphones to the public.
Liv Schulman, Le Goubernement, 2019, Video HD. six channels installation (detail).Exhibition view, A plus A Gallery, Venice. Photo credits Angela Colonna
Le Goubernement, the newest of the work, is probably the centre-piece of the exhibition. The title is voluntarily spelt wrong, substituting the ‘v’ of government with a ‘b’, as if a Spanish speaker (say, Schulman) would be reading it. It presents six episodes, narrating the vicissitudes of queer artists who lived in Paris between 1910 and 1980. As it can be imagined, these were (and, by and large, still are) outcast, greatly forgotten by the grand narratives. Schulman defies the mainstream chronicle not only by giving a central role to this otherwise lateral figures but also by generating a new way of storytelling. There is no linear sequence in either her shots or her dialogues. The film-sequences follow each other without chronological order. As Camille Chenais suggests, Le Goubernement is not retracing events, destinies or falsely universal linear movements, but [creates] narratives where multiple his- tories, images, thoughts, languages and sensations converge. Le Goubernement is neither a realistic film, nor a historical drama, nor a rational history ; it is a film where the discourses, images and forms of speech also turn into characters.
With this non-linear, unconventional, and unexpected use of the word, Schulman disrupts mainstream ideas around sexuality, identity, ethnicity, ‘correctness’… And she does so maintaining as protagonists all those bodies that often defy the parameters imposed by society regarding what’s normal. Schulman’s films pullulate with queer people, disabled people, outcast personae, women, people identifying themselves as females. By posing them at the centre of her narratives, she finds a proper space for these otherwise neglected categories. Yet, even them must come to grips with the current world we live in, emphasising their struggles. L’Obstruction (2018), in French, focuses on the impact language has on our public (and equally private) identity. The central character of the film is giving an educational speech. Or, better, he’s trying to do so– surrounded by a crowd, he finds himself unable to address even a single person.
Liv Schulman, ‘An international subconscious awareness of capitalism’ at A plus A Gallery – 18th March 2020
About the artist
Liv Schulman was born in 1985 and she grew up in Buenos Aires. She now lives and works in Paris. She studied art practice and art writing at the ENSAPC de Paris-Cergy, Goldsmiths University of London, and the Lyon Post-Diploma. She is the winner of the 20th Prize Fondation d’entreprise Ricard, awarded on the occasion of the exhibition The Twentieth Fondation d’entreprise Ricard Prize, curated by Neïl Beloufa in September 2018. Her works have been shown and performed at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (2019), Centre Pompidou Paris (2019), Ricard Foundation (2018), Reina Sofia, Madrid (2018), Friche Belle de Mai, Marseille (2018), Galerie Noisy-le-Sec (2017), Sixty Eight art Institute, Copenhagen (2017) and the Biennale de Rennes (2016). Liv Schulman is a recipient of the Cité internationale des arts Visual Arts Committees and recipient of the 2018 Ricard Corporate Foundation Award.