Jasmina Cibic: Tear Down and Rebuild

This Critics’ Pick of Jasmina Cibic’s Belgrade show appeared on artforum.com:

Jasmina Cibic, Tear Down and Rebuild, 2015, HD video, color, sound, 13 minutes 52 seconds

A conference room has never looked this good. Immaculately dressed and made-up, the four female speakers seated at the round table beneath a vast, elegant glass dome could be characters from Sex and the City were it not for their posh British accents and the fact that they appear to be debating the merits and demerits of an unspecified building slated for demolition. Culled from speeches by public figures, state officials, dictators, and architects spanning the last century, theirs is no ordinary dialogue. Each woman embodies a certain position—nation builder, pragmatist, conservationist, and artist-architect—though at one point two of them begin to act out of character and unexpectedly switch allegiances as the minidrama unfolds.

Shot inside the inaccessible former Palace of the Federation in Belgrade, this staged meeting of the minds is Jasmina Cibic’s new film Tear Down and Rebuild, 2015. Like the two prior installments in the artist’s “Spielraum” trilogy, which takes its title from Austrian satirist Karl Kraus’s 1912 essay deploring excess ornamentation in language and architecture, this film is displayed within a theatrical installation featuring a curtain and sculptural pieces that double as seats for visitors. The walls of the gallery space leading to the projection room behind the curtain are entirely covered with a black-and-white printed reproduction of a sublime mountain view. At the opening, five Belgrade-based artists sporting light-gray outfits painstakingly gilded slogans inscribed onto trompe l’oeil banners floating in this imaginary landscape made of photographs pieced together from Josip Broz Tito’s personal archive. The fictitious building evoked in the film is matched by the unreal landscape, garlanded with rousing, generic injunctions that smack of doublespeak.

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