Opening – DESCRIPTIVE ACTS at the SFMOMA

February 18 June 17, 2012
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Language, performativity, and process are preoccupations for many contemporary artists. The works in Descriptive Acts engage with both text and image, foregrounding complex and often fraught acts of description, narration, translation, and communication.

The exhibition is presented in two consecutive configurations:

  • Act I (February 18 through April 15, 2012) features works by Aurélien Froment, Dora García, Shilpa Gupta, John Smith, and Tris Vonna-Michell
  • Act II (April 21 through June 17, 2012) highlights works by Anthony Discenza, Gupta, Lynn Marie Kirby and Li Xiaofei, Smith, and Vonna-Michell.

This exhibition is temporarily closed April 16 through 20. For this occasion the French artist Aurélien Froment will present his vidéo “Pulmo Marina”
The film Pulmo Marina features a Phacellophora camtschatica, more commonly known as the egg-yolk jellyfish, as it drifts and swims behind the glass display of its tank home at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A voiceover informs the viewer of its baroque but literally brainless anatomy, its voracious cannibalism and its classical forebears.

The work consist of a single 5-minute long shot of a jellyfish seen through the window of an aquarium. The jellyfish’s constantly changing forms are enhanced by a blue and yellow contrast between the animal and the artificial plane dark background of the aquarium. A seemingly familiar voice over gives a description of the image borrowing lines from high definition flat screen advertising, zoological guides, mythologies and interviews conducted with the aquarists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium about the specificities of the tank. Shifting from a banal wildlife TV programme about a sea creature towards a description of the physical and architectural conditions of its display in the aquarium, the film looks at how the image pre-exist its own recording, approaching the window of the aquarium as a display device participating in the construction of the notion of the viewer, whose social life would shift from the collective experience of the museum towards the private experience of the computer screen.
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