Francesco Urbano Ragazzi
Curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi at the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève (2019)
1. Sophia Al-Maria
2. Cheryl Donegan
3. Sabrina Röthlisberger
4. Johanna Bruckner
5. Bek Hyunjin
6. Shadi Habib Allah
The Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève is proud to open the doors to its Fifth Floor—a new phase, or more precisely, a new layer of the institution dedicated to presenting art online.
But what should the doors of such a space look like? Should they be gates, portals, altarpieces, or something else entirely? The curatorial duo Francesco Urbano Ragazzi has commissioned six artists, who have elaborated on the materiality of moving images throughout their practice, to find an answer to this question. Like a revolving door, the works by Sophia Al-Maria, Cheryl Donegan, Sabrina Röthlisberger, Johanna Bruckner, Bek Hyunjin, and Shadi Habib Allah will rotate monthly on the Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève website, offering access to six takes on the mass video and personal cinema culture of today.
Nowadays, images have become like doorways. This is first visible through their proportions; while vertical filming was a taboo until five years ago, 9:16 is currently the most widespread aspect ratio on social media. A fundamental reorientation, if not a revolution, in human ways of seeing. And yet verticality is not new in the history of cinema. Since the origins of film, it has inspired many authors, theories, and artworks: from Eadweard Muybridge’s animated collotype Boys Playing Leapfrog to Viking Eggeling’s Symphonie Diagonale, from Sergej Ėjzenštejn’s argument against the standardization of screen formats to the vertical attack of poetry that Maya Deren defined as being in opposition to the more conventional horizontal attack of drama. What does appear to be new is the fact that the viewer is now increasingly and persistently asked to enter these door-images personally. Through these narrow openings, for instance, populist parties ask the viewer to embrace their infinite jest of propaganda, influencers invite them to follow their sponsored lifestyles, and so on, at least until once again reality surges in tragically, as was the case with the live-streamed shooting of Alton Sterling back in 2016.
In order to earnestly enter these images instead of standing helplessly on the threshold, a visual activism is required. The artists who took part in this project explore many possible strategies. Some of them push us to develop a visual ecology, working on the recirculation of obsolete online materials; others invite us to reach a new perspective on nature that is a hybrid of portrait and landscape features. While going against the human panoramic view, some artworks suggest how a machine might view the world, and others help analyze the conditions for new forms of intimacy, generosity, and community. From being induced by the design of portable devices, these vertical videos may go to the roots of a creative gesture that can take us somewhere between growing plants and written pages, camera and screen, the Fifth Floor and its six doors.