Critics’ Picks

View of “Time of the Empress,” 2014.

View of “Time of the Empress,” 2014.


Aziz + Cucher

The Screening Room
2626 NW 2nd Avenue Wynwood
November 21, 2013–March 14, 2014

For their latest exhibition, Aziz + Cucher present a video installation based on bombed-out buildings in Sarajevo and throughout Bosnia. Originally commissioned by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2012, this version of the work has been re-configured by curator Tami Katz-Freiman so that seven vertical flat-screen panels are suspended from the ceiling at eye level. The room is nearly entirely dark—the only light coming from the stark white background of the plasma screens, on which endless loops of digitally animated buildings rhythmically rise and fall. The work’s title, Time of the Empress, is partially an oblique reference to a passage in Marguerite Yourcenar’s 1951 fictionalized autobiography Memories of Hadrian, in which the dying emperor reflects broadly on cycles of progress and regression as well as on chaos and order in history.

The video installation is backed by nondescript electronic white noise composed by Larry Buksbaum that has a nearly physical reverberation—visitors can almost feel the pulse of frequency in their body. As such, the work takes on a multisensorial quality, amplifying the scope of a piece that might otherwise lean toward a disembodied Minimalism. Stripped down to modular forms, the black-and-white animations are reminiscent of modernist international style architecture.

Though Time of the Empress was inspired by the artists’ journey through the Middle East and the Balkans in 2009, Aziz + Cucher have carefully removed any sense of place. Robert Smithson’s 1967 description of ruins of a different kind—the dilapidated industrial buildings of the suburb of Passaic, New Jersey—seem appropriate to invoke here. Smithson writes that they “don’t fall into ruin after they are built, but rather rise into ruin before they are built.” As such, Aziz + Cucher present ruins with a sense of lost promise as much as the possibility for future reclamation.