Boyzone

March 31, 2008 at 12:26 pm | Posted in art | Comments Off on Boyzone
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Last week I headed over to the Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (and yes, that’s the longest museum name *ever*) to see Clarisse Hahn’s “Boyzone”. Really, with a title like that, how was I to resist? Here’s the description:

This series of videos is a study of the male body, sometimes isolated but more often in groups: squatters drinking beer with their shirts off, teenagers training in martial-arts in a public garden, boyscouts, bodybuilders, a dog-handler training his dog…

Stereotypes are questioned here: how much are we susceptible to them? Boyzone questions the rapport of the individual to the group: how does one become integrated in it? To what extent do we model our behaviour on that of the group we belong to? What signs of our belonging to this group do we exhibit?

I’m always fascinated by the examination of cultural constructions of masculinity, so I was pretty excited about this, but I’m sorry to say the exhibit itself was a bit of a disappointment, and I suspect the biggest problems were due to the curator, rather than the artist. True, it’s hard to build an art exhibit around video and still have it be visually and spatially engaging. But did they have to scatter the tv sets in such an irritatingly random manner? Some were on the floor, some were on pillars, and one tiny set was perched way up by the ceiling, where it was pretty much unwatchable. Also, each of the video pieces had sound, but instead of having headphones, each tv was set at a frustratingly low volume, so you could hear it only if you listened really intently and ignored the cacophonous noises coming from all the other tvs.

I was also somewhat annoyed by the artist’s decision to include so many “isolated” male bodies, which didn’t seem to contribute much to her thesis. Especially since these supposedly isolated males were not actually alone, but obviously interacting with the artist behind the camera — who is female. If the piece is supposed to be about how men act around other men, how useful is it to see them interacting with a female documentarian?

Despite these flaws, there was still a lot of interesting commentary on/documentary depiction of masculine behavior. The artist’s choice to use very short, highly edited clips with low sound helped to frame and highlight the physical interactions of men in groups — how the soccer players playfully slapped at each other, the squatters nodded obliquely, or the teenagers wrestled and spit… Even the video of a group of men and boys slaughtering a goat was illuminating, if a bit gross.

Clarisse Hahn — Boyzone
Musee d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
Ends April 6 — free

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