Critics’ Picks

Still from The End, 2006.

Still from The End, 2006.

London

Mark Wallinger

Anthony Reynolds Gallery
60 Great Marlborough Street
September 13–October 15, 2006

Distilling epic stories into their nominal signifiers, Mark Wallinger proposes a beginning and an end for complex religious and political histories. The alpha, A ist für Alles, 2005, draws on the work of Edward Said, specifically his collaboration with Daniel Barenboim in the organization of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which brings together musicians from Arab and Jewish communities in the Middle East. The pregnant sound of the orchestra uniformly tuning to the A note bathes the physical element of Wallinger’s installation—a black Mies van der Rohe day bed positioned in the center of a white room. The Bauhaus divan connects Said’s project to Weimar, and thus to Goethe, who is known to have drawn on Persian poetry in his work—establishing a fanciful but meaningful link between Eastern and Western intellectual traditions. The sound of the musicians’ instruments seeking a common pitch continues uninterrupted as Wallinger’s 35-mm film The End, 2006, punctuates the day with its regularly scheduled screenings. The twelve-minute projection, set to Johann Strauss’s grand Blue Danube Waltz, is a rolling cast of characters listed in order of their appearance in the Old Testament. Beginning with God, the continuous column of white names on a black background is a deceptive simplification—stripped of narrative, and thus conflict, the collision of identities is miraculously uneventful. Cain and Abel abut each other without incident, just as the Divan Orchestra’s uniform tones peacefully find unison in the minimalist space. Wallinger shows us no gray—only the inevitably seductive, dualistic extremes of black and white.