Critics’ Picks

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni, Bassae Bassae, 2014. 35-mm color film, 9 minutes.

Luxembourg City

Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni

Casino Luxembourg
41, rue Notre-Dame
January 25 - April 27

Whether working with 35-mm film or state-of-the-art digital video technology, Fabien Giraud and Raphaël Siboni play with temporal conventions of filmmaking. Referencing the past, present, and future, the eleven works included in “The Unmanned”—the artist duo’s first institutional show—establish an eerie alternate reality wherein humanity is barely present and automated technology reigns supreme.

The exhibition opens with Untitled (La Vallée von uexküll), 2009/2014, an ongoing series of digitally filmed desert sunsets. Made using progressively higher-definition cameras, each video is screened on a correspondingly high-tech projector. Five such digital recordings are shown here in a suite of walled-off but connected white-cube rooms. Notions of time and progress in these videos—which are as hypnotic as light installations by James Turrell or Doug Wheeler—are both subtle and stirring. Though the series as a whole is overwhelmingly white, in the company of the 2014 depiction of a distinct glowing orb surrounded by a graduated halo, the 2009 video appears vastly different—more blown-out and pixelated. Each projection documents part of the Earth’s rotation in minutes and, cumulatively, the series measures five years of technological advancements.

Chromatically and conceptually more complex, a trilogy (also titled “The Unmanned”) that describes man in competition with technology was appropriately shot from cameras attached to drones or otherwise controlled by computers. The most straightforward episode is 1997—The Brute Force, 2013–14, which portrays the room where chess champion Garry Kasparov suffered defeat to IBM’s Deep Blue on May 11, 1997. As the camera pans around the abandoned set, narratively significant details (miniature Russian and American flags, a framed poster advertising “Kasparov vs. Deep Blue: The Rematch,” the final chess board) are treated to the same detached examination as ostensibly irrelevant minutiae (paint cracks, a dangling coiled phone cord, swaths of drab gray carpeting). This disconcertingly nonhuman POV, the work of a camera mounted on a computer-programmed robotic arm, is a chilling illustration of technology’s unsympathetic brute force.