Ritualised Gestures

To kick-start Camden Art Centre’s 2017 programme, Joachim Koester takes over three gallery spaces with an immersive installation of film, digital video, photography and audio. The collection spans the last 12 years of the Danish artist’s career, a period connected by persistent questioning into the boundaries of apparent reality and characterised by a quest to uncover hidden aspects of perception. In the Face of Overwhelming Forces follows the theme present in The Other Side of the Sky (2016) at the Turner Contemporary earlier in the year, with a central focus on motion and the body which highlighted Koester’s fascination with the subject.

An innovative new film, Maybe this act, this work, this thing (2016) is shown for the first time as part of the display. The commission, in partnership with Auguste Orts and Bergen Kunsthall, enabled the artist to realise a project that has been in gestation for the last decade of his practice. The piece narrates the early beginnings of cinema, using performers to mimic  new technologies with their bodies, the juxtaposition of the vaudeville figures and the advancements that threatened the stage industry makes the work incredibly evocative. The simulation of cameras, projectors, quivering electricity and a whirring celluloid, alongside movements which are only amplified by the sounds of muttering voices, echo the dawning revolution of the film industry

In The Place of Dead Roads (2013) the cinematic motif is also evident, the video section deconstructs the western genre and its ritualised gestures. It consists of a surreal encounter between four performers engaged in a circling duel, with trance-like steps reflecting the rugged rhetoric of the stereotypical Wild West. In tune with Koester’s other work in moving image, the installation is anchored in the idea that histories and forgotten memories are intrinsically built into the human nervous and muscular systems. The practitioner evokes the concept that these buried psyches can be awakened by movement; by collaborating closely with performers, the artist uses these ceremonial movements as a vehicle to open the “terra incognita” of the body.

An enquiry into the unknown is also seen in Koester’s experimentation with other creative disciplines, his photography series and an audio meditation musing on the places that time forgot. In the Face of Overwhelming Forces interlinks individual artworks, each with distinctive narratives, forming a physical journey between each and a gateway into strange and unfamiliar territories.

Joachim Koester’s In the Face of Overwhelming Forces, 28 January – 26 March, Camden Arts Centre, London. To find out more, visit: www.camdenartscentre.org

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