Critics’ Picks

View of “Quissac,” 2019.

Berlin

Yalda Afsah

Fragile
Leipzigerstraße 63
July 7–July 24, 2019

In Yalda Afsah’s video Vidourle, 2019, a mass of youngsters sift around in murky water, stirring with anticipation. One wears a statement T-shirt that reads, “DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE.” What’s the hype? We don’t know. As the boys run out of the frame, waves glistening, the video cuts to a cropped image of their absence, then to their audience: girls clutching at a fence and biting their lips. A guy whips the ground with a green pool noodle. Afsah has set a scene at once totally disjointed and completely captivating.

Vidourle and another short video, Tourneur, 2018, are shown opposite and, in turn, on massive projection screens in the project space’s cavernous hall on Berlin’s Leipziger Strasse, where large tires have been laid out for viewers to sit on and watch. When one video finishes, hypnotized visitors can rotate, ready for another round. Tourneur opens with painterly mountains of foam; once again, children are waiting. Suddenly, a black bull darts from the bubbles, its nostrils flared and pink, its eyes flickering with frightened confusion. But this revelation does nothing to relieve the absurdity (a bullfight in foam for kids?), and the focus remains essentially the same as in Vidourle: By way of expert excisions, Afsah makes a formal interrogation of movement, facial expressions, shirts, and flip-flops to paint a rare and fascinating portrait of boyish pageantry, childish courage, collectivity, and, well, animal cruelty. Because the two works play in repeated succession, the experience of knowledge versus concealment and of expectation versus mystery will vary, depending on when one walks in. As such, “Quissac”—the exhibition is named after the area in southern France where the videos were filmed—toys with assumptions about spectacle and spectatorship. Perfectly executed through Afsah’s perfectly edited lens, the hype here is no bull, but the act of looking itself.