PREVIEW PARTY TONIGHT 6 PM
March 6-May 25, 2014
Installation shot of the panoramic “Nameless Spectacle” (Source)
March 6, 2014
Once again, the Des Moines Art Center is on the cutting edge of contemporary art. Danish video artist, Jesper Just’s exhibition, “This is a Landscape of Desire” opens at the Art Center today, March 6 and runs through May 25th. This is the U.S. premiere of an exhibition that originated in Denmark at the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art.
Copenhagen-born Just studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in the late 1990s and is now one of the most important video artists of his generation. His work is in collections at MoMA and the Tate Modern. He was the 2013 Danish representative at the Venice Biennale.
I first saw Just’s work several years ago when Art Center Associate Curator Laura Burkhalter picked his short film, “A Vicious Undertow” for the museum’s Single Channel video series. I was immediately hooked by the film’s stylish, scary glamour. I was thrilled to hear that the Art Center would be featuring a “conversation” with Just on Tuesday March 4th as part of his exhibition opening
Art Center Senior Curator and Curator of “This is a Landscape of Desire,” Gilbert Vicario hosted the evening talk which featured snippets of four of the artist’s short video works: “No Man is An Island II, “A Voyage in Dwelling,” “Sirens in Chrome,” and “This Nameless Spectacle.”
Just’s beautifully crafted and films are deliberately non-narrative. Though he references Hollywood and famous film-makers like Ingmar Bergman and David Lynch, this artist’s focus is more on place and time than characterization. “The character comes out of the place,” revealed Just. Characters often wander through travelogues inspired by those of hundreds of years ago, but with a thoroughly modern twist to them.
Screenshot from Just’s “Nameless Spectacle” (Source)
Themes of male and female sexuality, sensuality, and how humans interact with nature and architecture are prevalent. There also seems to be an undercurrent of desire paired with an ominous sense of doom pervading Just’s work. My personal favorite video of the evening was “This Nameless Spectacle,” which follows a beautiful red-haired woman (possibly transgender?) in a wheelchair through a tranquil park on the outskirts of Paris. She seems to be being pursued by a shifty looking young man, but the viewer cannot quite figure out the whole story. It is shown in split panels with differing points of view. I only got to see half the video, and now I am totally hooked! I am planning a gallery visit to the Art Center this weekend to find out what happens and to see all the works in the show. I urge everyone to do the same and to become more familiar with the enigmatic and atmospheric work of Jesper Just.
Heath Hardage Lee is the History Series Coordinator at Salisbury House & Gardens in Des Moines, Iowa. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Charlotte Magazine, Charlotte Home Design. Charlotte Place, and Charlotte Business, and she regularly contributes to several blogs on history, art and design.