After a five-year hiatus, French multimedia artist Cyprien Gaillard returns to New York with Nightlife, an ambitiously-produced 3D film bursting with melancholia and contemplation, while raising questions about global history and collective memory. On view at Gladstone Gallery’s 21st street location where visitors gather in a pitch black room to view the immersive experience through special glasses, the fifteen-minute film follows a floating camera around equally familiar and peculiar sites in various destinations. Three seemingly disparate cities, Berlin, Los Angeles, and Cleveland appear in Gaillard’s film with specific sites that either have cultural or natural significance.
These locations include non-indigenous flora planted across the Los Angeles Basin, the annual Pyronale fireworks at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture outside at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Hitler-gifted Jesse Owens Olympic oak tree at the James Ford Rhodes High School again in Cleveland. Through the end, however, these environments begin to amalgamate, visually and historically, blending into a moody meditation on history, cultural identity, and nationalism.
Elevating the experience into a transient state is the soundtrack that perfectly supplements the film’s subversive progression against logic and purpose with a poetic absurdity. “I was born a loser” line from the chorus in Alton Ellis’ 1961 Treasure Isle label hit Black Man’s World constantly repeats, accompanying the frame that wanders around the thinking man robust figure before slowly transitioning into the voluminous leaves blasting with Los Angeles wind. Three dimensionally deepens the marble sculpture’s obsolete surface and the fissure texture of the plants. Sharp details and bright hues leap out of the screen towards the audience. The looping lyrics, however, see a slight shift through the finale, singing ‘I was born a winner’ from the song’s 1971 version recorded by a competitor record label at the time.
Owens’ four-gold medal victory in 1936 Olympics during the Nazi regime in Germany had become a sensation due to Hitler’s racist anti-diversity propaganda and refusal to acknowledge the African American athlete’s victory. Intertwined with binaries encapsulated in the song’s two different versions, the notions of success and failure in the face of extreme challenge echo with Ellis’ charming voice. The fireworks blasting in the Berlin Olympic station then built to celebrate Nazi prowess parallel with oak trees standing to represent Owens’ win against all odds. In line with the film’s focus on Cleveland, Nightlife will be shown this summer during FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art.
Cyprien Gaillard: Nightlife is on view at Gladstone Gallery through April 14, 2018.
ALL STILLS: Copyright Cyprien Gaillard Courtesy the artist, Sprüth Magers and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels Soundtrack © BLACK MAN’ S WORLD Performed by Alton Ellis, (P) 1970 Sanctuary Records Ltd., a BMG Company, Courtesy of BMG Rights Management GmbH Written and composed by Alton N. Ellis, published by Haka Taka Music, Courtesy of Melodie der Welt GmbH & Co. KG. © BLACK MAN’S PRIDE featuring the performance of Alton Ellis is licensed by Jamaica Recording and Publishing Studio Limited,. 13 Studio One Boulevard, Kingston 5, Jamaica Written and composed by Alton Ellis, published by Third Side Music o/b/o Jamrec Music, Courtesy of Rückbank Musikverlag Mark Chung
– Gladstone Gallery [Exhibition Page]