Critics’ Picks

Simon Faithfull, 0°00° Navigation, 2008, still from a film in Super 8 mm, 55 minutes.

Simon Faithfull, 0°00° Navigation, 2008, still from a film in Super 8 mm, 55 minutes.

Altkirch

Simon Faithfull and Christoph Keller

CRAC Alsace
18 Rue du château
February 7–May 16, 2010

A Plexiglas panel, installed above the entrance to the Crac Alsace, reads, “Je haïs les voyages et les explorateurs” (I hate traveling and explorers)—the first line from Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes tropiques (1955), as well as German artist Christoph Keller’s apparent riposte to the exhibition title. A survey of works by Keller and English artist Simon Faithfull, “Voyages extraordinaires” (Extraordinary Voyages) cultivates this kind of contrariness against a background of Jules Vernian escapades. Faithfull’s beguiling film OºOO Navigation, 2008, captures the artist as he walks the length of the Greenwich Meridian Line from Hampshire to Lincolnshire. In the tradition of Stanley Brouwn or Richard Long, inflected with Buster Keaton, Faithfull gallivants through suburbs, schoolyards, industrial parks, and fields, scaling fences and fording rivers. His project Escape Vehicles, 1995–2005, depicts quixotic endeavors to escape into the stratosphere (using large balloons—think Up!—or rocket packs—like a particularly bathetic Roman Signer), suggesting that the most extraordinary voyages (aim to) end in oblivion.

Faithfull’s small, winsome triumphs contrast with Keller’s guile and subversive flair. His video Tour solaire (Solar Tower), 2007, films the interior an observatory, coming to linger on a constellation of dead insects on the windowsill, as if to mirror the morbidity of galactic gazing. Keller’s film installation Cloudbusters, 2003–2010, documents his intervention in the climate of a Moroccan town, equipped with psychologist Wilhelm Reich’s eponymous invention. The “cloudbuster’s” specious capacity to generate rainstorms ropes in the locals and their own rainmaking rituals until, lo and behold, the skies do open—broaching reflections on charlatanism in both meteorology and anthropology that Lévi-Strauss himself might appreciate. If two-person exhibitions are often convoked around some measure of formal or psychological complicity between the featured artists, Keller's and Faithfull’s contrasting temperaments come as an aberrance, and a welcome one at that—showing a thematic exhibition’s willingness, like Keller’s Cloudbusters, to sow doubt in its own narrative and escape its ordinary ambit.