Keren Cytter review by Gina Buenfeld
‘Avalanche’ is a 4-channel video installation split across two venues: ‘Ducks and Woman’ and ‘Francophile’ at Pilar Corrias; ‘Lonely Planet’ and ‘Chain Review’ at David Roberts Art Foundation. The four chapters re-iterate scenarios featuring a small cast of characters, with shifts in style and plot between narrative layers. Filmed in Berlin and London, some refrains unfold against the backdrop of Fitzrovia, re-presenting the viewer’s journey between venues. The disorientating affect is typical of Cytter’s work, which orchestrates encounters between vaguely discernible registers of experience.
In ‘Chain Review’, the action moves schizophrenically from the main drama, to dissonant interjections by Michael Chain, evaluating the camera’s performance while a runner creates artificial snow within view. This disclosure of filmic artifice brings about a brutal realism, compounded by stilted performances bearing the un-glamour of reality TV. Cytter’s ambiguously classified authorship, leaves us unclear how we’re being addressed - with a documentary, television drama, or real-life heartbreak - and structurally introduces the instable notions of identity, memory, and relationships.
It’s possible to navigate ‘Avalanche’ by plotting images and pivotal events surfacing in each video: glitter ball; piano; girl eating an apple; Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov’. The context holding them up perpetually shifts, yet amongst the maelstrom, they are symbolic beacons offering themselves to interpretation, like memories excavated on the analytic couch as a character in Francophile intimates: ‘To be honest I do not understand a word or gesture around me. I do understand the edge of the talk and the tip of the gesture, that stretches away like a dream to my mind’.
Cytter uses the idea of cliché to characterise her dramas, with tropes that have been distilled from cultures over time. There’s a tragic determinism binding her players to their fates with complexes and scenarios they are destined to repeat, playing-out the psychological work of life, rewriting memories and replaying relationships with shifting recipients of the subject’s projections. Andrew, the embittered protagonist, is mired in his misogyny, a matrix set by his mother, piano teacher and first sweetheart: ‘the lady is not here, but in the poor boy’s head; the lady comes in three courses’ (‘Ducks and Women’). Andrew’s struggle is evidently determined by his Mother Complex, the ontological wound that ripples through the female roles in ‘Avalanche’: a love interest who repents ‘my sin is unforgivable’; a girl who drops a bitten apple (the fall from grace); a tyrannical piano teacher.
The themes of Dostoyevsky’s masterwork - doubt, truth, human redemption, triangular love affairs, and psychological inheritance - underpin the framework of ‘Avalanche’. Citing the novel, Cytter’s script alludes to Andrew’s moral affliction: “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him’‘. The point seems to be that truth is subjective, life is a projection of our mind and the dynamics we are doomed to play-out. The mise-en-abyme within ‘Avalanche’ places the characters and audience between a play of mirrors, fantasies and films within films, where we get lost in the abyss of existential bewilderment.