The Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle is pleased to announce a new solo project by UK-based artist duo Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin. Entitled ‘Rudiments,’ the exhibition consists of a set of new photographic, moving image and performative works that collectively explore tensions between discipline and chance, precision and chaos, empathy and the involuntary pleasure of watching the pain of others.
Central to the exhibition is a film work ‘Rudiments’, in which Broomberg and Chanarin have collaborated with a group of young army cadets at a military camp on the outskirts of Liverpool. Whether the scenes we observe are staged by the artists or simply a document of the camp’s routine practice remains unclear. The absurd and disturbing introduction of a ‘bouffon’ – a dark clown whose performance teeters on vulgarity – radically challenges the military codes and interrupts their carefully choreographed routines. Broomberg and Chanarin’s film, explores the formative moments of childhood and early youth and is propelled by a dramatic score devised for the drums by the American musician Kid Millions.
Two large scale photographic works dominate the other galleries. The first shows a series of still-lives of bullets that have collided in midair. These improbable objects were originally found on the battlefields of the American civil war and are said to have effectively saved the lives of two soldiers. For the second series, Broomberg and Chanarin have photographed military grade prisms, shards of optical glass that are used in the sights of precision weaponry. Violence is transmitted through these materials: collided lumps of lead and the shear edges of crystal glass.
Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin are fascinated by power, its tools and mechanisms. Their artistic practice frequently leads them to directly engage with existing power relations within the production and use of images. For example, as embedded journalists in the British military campaign in Afghanistan (‘The Day Nobody Died’), they turned the focus away from the events of war themselves toward the instrumental role of photographers on the front line and hence the very rituals and protocols of documenting these events. During a quasi-anthropological excursion to Gabon, the artists equally rejected the official task as much as conventional standards of documentary photography and instead used historical film stock from the 1970s, infamous for its lacking ability to render black bodies – ultimately returning with nothing but a single image (‘To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light’).
The artists are questioning not only the task of the photographer, but also the medium itself and its role as a political instrument. The camera is never neutral and innocent; rather, its physical and material characteristics often reveal its more underlying ideological functions. While ‘To Photograph the Details of a Dark Horse in Low Light’ and ‘The Polaroid Workers Revolutionary Movement’ dealt with the relation between photographic technology and racial politics (and, especially, the role of the Kodak and Polaroid companies), ‘Shtik Fleisch Mit Tzvei Eigen’ explores the effects of the implementation of new technologies in the context of state surveillance systems. Time and again, the artists reverse the documentary tradition, putting at the very centre not the final product and its emotional impact, but instead exposing the multi-layered process and the complex politics of making images.
Curator: Kaja Pawełek