Miami Art Museum. Through Jul 31, 2011.
Miami Art Museum is showcasing a newly-acquired video installation by Mark Boulos, an artist-filmmaker working in London and Amsterdam, who makes multi-screen documentary videos about religious ecstasy and political militancy. All That Is Solid Melts into Air is a two-channel video installation, with images screened on opposite walls of a room. In the projected images the corporate colonization of Nigerian oil resources creates the occasion for a contrast of cultures and beliefs. All That Is Solid Melts into Air is on view in the Focus Gallery section of Miami Art Museum’s Permanent Collection installation.
In the installation, one screen features images shot in the Niger delta, featuring militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which has declared ‘total war’ on the foreign oil corporations that extract and export oil from their territory. The guerillas are shown preparing themselves for battle and asking for blessings from Egbisu, their god of justice and war, who inspires and protects them from bullets. On the opposite screen are traders at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the largest commodities exchange in the world, who speculate on oil and other commodity futures. Paradoxically, Boulos’ video purposely underscores the similarities as well as the differences between these two groups at opposite ends of the oil “pipeline:” Members of each group appear in costume, perform ritualized actions, and whip themselves into emotional frenzies. Through this juxtaposition, Boulos highlights the combination of emotional intensity and ideological abstraction that characterizes both groups.
When All That Is Solid Melts into Air premiered at the Sydney Biennial in 2008, Art in America hailed Boulos as “one of the real discoveries of the exhibition,” and praised the video installation as “lush and enthralling.” When it was presented at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, LA Weekly called it “visceral.” Of his 2010 exhibition at the Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia, which included All That Is Solid Melts into Air, the Vancouver Observer wrote, “At first blush this work seems more like documentary filmmaking than art. But Boulos’ creative juxtapositions and keen eye for detail transports his work to a higher, poetic level.”
All That Is Solid Melts into Air premiered at the 16th Biennale of Sydney in 2008 and has been shown at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 2008, the Berlin Biennial in 2010, and the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. The video was acquired by MAM in 2010 when a group of museum supporters saw it at the Berlin Biennial and contributed the funds to purchase it. This is the first time it is being shown at MAM.
Mark Boulos studied visual art at the Rijksakademie in Holland as a Fulbright Scholar, documentary filmmaking at National Film and Television School in England, and philosophy at Swarthmore College and Deep Springs College in USA. He has filmed guerrillas in the Philippines (No Permanent Address, 2010), oil warriors and commodities traders in Nigeria and Chicago (All That Is Solid Melts into Air, 2008), and religious mystics in London and Syria, (The Word Was God, 2006 and The Gates of Damascus, 2005). He has had solo presentations at the Belkin Art Gallery in Vancouver, Ar-Ge Kunst in Bolzano, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. His group shows include the Thessaloniki Biennale 2009, the Sydney Biennale 2008, EASTinternational 2006 at the Norwich Gallery, Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2005 at the Barbican, and Beck’s Futures 2004 at the ICA London. His work has been supported by Film London, the Arts Council England, the Channel 4 British Documentary Film Fund, the Netherlands Film Funds, and the Netherlands Funds for Visual Arts (Fonds BKVB).
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