Critics’ Picks

Julika Rudelius, Rituals, 2012, HD video, color, 10 minutes 30 seconds.

New York

Julika Rudelius

Leo Koenig Inc. | 541 West 23rd
541 West 23rd Street
July 11 - September 8

Set in a private lounge with a country club aesthetic, Julika Rudelius’s Rites of Passage, 2008—one of two video installations on view in her current solo exhibition—pairs young Ivy League men with wizened male politicians. While the older men quiz the younger ones on politics, posing leading questions and prompting their responses, viewers may begin to recognize a spectrum of other performative iterations unfolding in the work—subtle physical touches, vocal intonations, and rhythms of speech—which charge the piece with sexual overtones. The video suggests that the keys to becoming a powerful leader are not words but instead coded behaviors.

This self-negating tendency is echoed in Rituals, 2012, which examines alienated day laborers in Guangzhou longing for recognition. Here young men pose in various ways for the camera, emulating modes of presentation common to the global industry of fashion advertising. Some lie languidly on beds of raw material in factories, walled in by more of the same, vamping and gazing seductively into the lens with no visible audience; others stand triumphantly atop a wagon in the city’s ad hoc traffic jam of people and objects. The men are portrayed as anonymous ciphers of commodity fetishism in the global economy.

The juxtaposition of these two projects––the desire of Guangzhou’s alienated, isolated workers for recognition and the guarantee of social and cultural inclusion conferred upon Ivy League attendees—sets out two poles of elite and nonelite participants in this international exchange. The exhibition makes an implicit statement about how these populations are defined, taught, and driven apart.