Critics’ Picks

  • Andro Eradze, All Hands Bury the Dead, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 13 minutes 41 seconds.

    Andro Eradze, All Hands Bury the Dead, 2019, HD video, color, sound, 13 minutes 41 seconds.

    Andro Eradze

    Kunsthalle Tbilisi
    April 7–May 30, 2020

    As an origin myth, the tale of Prometheus suggests that staring into flames is no new pastime for human civilization. And yet the opening frames of Andro Eradze’s nearly fourteen-minute HD video All Hands Bury the Dead, 2019, remind us how otherworldly a fire can seem, as branches bloat into ash, then buckle into the low light of the embers. Later, similar footage is played in reverse, bringing the gnarled limbs writhing back to life.

    A commission for the Kunsthalle Tbilisi, the video was originally timed to coincide with the now-postponed Tbilisi Art Fair, which tends to be a showcase for the city scene. But Eradze doesn’t need the assist. Throughout his short career, the artist has shown a persistent interest in staging, whether setting his video works within the storied Rustaveli Theatre (Last Tickets Are Free, 2017) or in a humble suburban living room (Wave [Gesture], 2018.) When the fair’s embattled 2018 exhibition “War on Hold/Under Construction” shuttered early, Eradze transposed his three-channel video Stick to Your Guns, 2018, onto a metal scaffold, a kind of vertical spine that required a ramp to view the work closely.

    Streamed online, All Hands Bury the Dead must make do with a decidedly less dramatic presentation. Still, the piece successfully parlays natural spectacle to a satisfying effect, even on the small screen. After the opening footage of the fire, the camera takes on an Andrei Tarkovsky timbre as the lens trains on a ramshackle house in a clearing. The following shots of foliage are eerily motionless and could even be confused for stills, if it weren’t for the fleeting flash of legs in the woods or the flutter of an insect across the foreground. When strong winds enter the frames, the video seems to slide in and out of perceptual manipulations, played in what appears to be multiple directions at varying speeds, until the viewer cannot tell what is organic and what is digital. By the end, it is clear that even the branches are not what they seem, leaving the viewer unsettled, but still spellbound.