press release

Shown for the first time in the UK, Julian Rosefeldt’s film installation, Clown, is set in the middle of a dense tropical rainforest where, from the far distance, a clown appears climbing through the rocky path of a stream, disappearing in and out of view back into the forest. Exploiting the overtly theatrical figure of the clown as a nonsensical agent of the human condition, Rosefeldt’s mise-en-scéne acts out the uncertain connection between the deliberate absurdity of the situation and the apathy of the event unfolding, where the costume and extreme surroundings (the forest) point out the film’s double play on disguise.

The architect-trained Berlin-based artist considers this work as the epilogue to his epic filmic Trilogy of Failure (2004-06), which analysed every-day stereotyped activities by means of surreal (de)construction and compulsive behaviour, turning the familiarity of normal undertakings into unexpected absurdity. In a Beckettian manner, only Rosefeldt’s characters can understand what is taking place: their clumsy actions question the rituals of life and their meaning (or meaninglessness). In a similar vein, the humour of this new multi-screen installation is represented by a figure struggling to find balance as it forges its way over a difficult path.

The clown, a familiar symbol present in contemporary art in the work by Bruce Nauman, Paul McCarthy and Cindy Sherman to name a few, is, for Rosefeldt, a metaphor with the function to interrogate the role of the artist as a Sisyphean provider of entertainment, working on a stage which is a caricature of uneasy and uncertain situations. But this is also an allegorically universal portrait of an iconic image which, to quote a master of satire like Groucho Marx, is “like aspirin, only he works twice as fast.”

Rosefeldt graduated with an MA in Architecture and has participated in a number of acclaimed exhibitions such as Dark Places at Santa Monica Museum of Art (2005), the 2005 Prague Biennial and the 2004 São Paolo Biennale. Solo exhibitions include BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, and Kunst-Werke Berlin, (both 2004) and Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2002). His works are in the collections of, among others, MUSAC (Léon), Thyssen-Bornemisza (Vienna) and the Deutsche Bank Collection (Frankfurt a/M).


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Julian Rosefeldt