Critics’ Picks

White Suit, 2008, still from a two-channel color video with sound, 3 minutes 16 seconds.

White Suit, 2008, still from a two-channel color video with sound, 3 minutes 16 seconds.

Berlin

Miguel Angel Rios

Galerie Thomas Schulte
Charlottenstrasse 24
July 5–August 30, 2008

Miguel Angel Rios’s video White Suit (all works 2008) opens with the staccato beat of a flamenco, performed by the film’s protagonist, who is dressed in white and placed before a black background. Drawing on traditional techniques of Argentine cowboys, the dancer swings two boleadoras, metal balls attached to string, which hit the floor with hypnotic precision. The elegant and sophisticated dance takes a surprisingly comic turn as one discovers the boleadoras are made of raw meat; then the dance progresses from absurd to alarming. Stray dogs, snarling and barking viciously, suddenly dominate the split screen; taunted by the meat and the dancer’s provocation, the animals attack. What ensues is a surreal struggle that invites many metaphoric readings as the dancer, attempting to maintain his rhythm, confronts chaos, rabid insanity, and potentially fatal violence. He ultimately overcomes his attackers, and the film concludes with his triumphant dance, but neither he nor his white suit survive unscathed; the meat is long gone, ripped to shreds and devoured by animals.

This video, along with two similar works titled Crudo and Matambre, took over a year for the artist to produce, mainly due to the difficulty of finding a dancer who would pit himself against actual street dogs. Choreographed entirely by the artist, White Suit channels the physically arduous yet cathartic performance art of Marina Abramovic in a poetic depiction of the human will’s resistance to adversity—without missing a beat.

Editor's note: Rios's video Crudo is also on view at LAXART, Los Angeles, from July 19–September 7, 2008.