Critics’ Picks

Placebo, 2002, still from a color video with sound, 6 minutes.

Placebo, 2002, still from a color video with sound, 6 minutes.


Saskia Olde Wolbers

Mori Art Museum
6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-Ku Roppongi Hills Mori Tower 52/53F
April 25–July 13, 2008

Saskia Olde Wolbers’s video work comprises circular narratives of personal fate that take place on the fringes of consciousness or reality. Notoriously unprolific, Wolbers takes one to two years to complete each of her works, which involve constructing elaborate miniature sets out of everyday materials and filming them close-up. In the process, she creates worlds even more alluring and mysterious than any generated with computer graphics.

In Placebo, 2002, the narrator tells her story of love and deceit as she regains consciousness after a terrible car crash. She recounts how she fell in love with a “phantom doctor” who roamed the wards of the hospital where she is now fighting for her life. While she details the conflict between her yearning for a future with him and the ever-encroaching reality of his lies, viewers see a ghostly infirmary devoid of figures. The hospital’s interior has been constructed out of a thin wire cage and filmed underwater. A white, viscous, paintlike liquid clings to the architectural model’s walls, trembling hypnotically before its surface tension gives and it breaks down into smaller globules that float across the screen. In this vulnerable, disintegrating world, one feels the narrator’s sense of time and consciousness slipping away. In Kilowatt Dynasty, 2000, too, time and space have been distorted. Set to footage of a yellow-green underwater world of tunnels, the narrator’s voice-over recounts her parents’ first meeting seventeen years in the future, in a broadcasting complex at the bottom of a lake formed by the Three Gorges Dam in China. The enigmatic imagery and the tragic, dreamlike stories that accompany them remain in the viewer’s mind long after the videos have ended.