Milan

Michael Fliri

An American football player hurls himself against a wall of soft, colored Plasticine, which absorbs the impact—at which point he inevitably falls to the ground. The wall is indented by the blows of his helmet. The stadium is deserted. There is no game under way. The gesture is meaningless, the action futile, all the more so because it is repeated and always produces the same result.

Thus the content of the left-hand screen in Michael Fliri’s three-channel video projection Getting Too Old to Die Young, 2008. Once this action was concluded, the video on the central screen began, and finally the last one, on the right. The three videos are not connected by a narrative thread but are variations on a theme. In the central video Fliri presents another, equally futile action: A young punk attempts to hook a makeshift anchor to a tree branch. The anchor is connected to a hand-cranked winch, which the young man ties to his waist and turns so that he raises his body up from the ground until it reaches the tree branch. The punk then rocks there, happily. All Fliri’s videos are based on this kind of performance and last more or less the duration of the action. The artist himself is the actor or performer. Disguised and unrecognizable, he invents grotesque situations, worlds made up of images and characters he interprets, worlds out of a cartoon. Fliri is not interested in investigating the body. He is not challenging himself seriously—probing his ability to withstand pain or capacity for resistance. He carries out tests, assigning his characters tasks to complete, but these are as mild and innocuous as a child’s prank. The football player does not really hurt himself; the punk does not fall from his improvised swing. The actions are often inspired by sports, but what interests Fliri is the mechanical nature of sports movements; he extrapolates gestures or rituals from their context and isolates them until they become empty and ridiculous.

In the third video, the artist wears a bulletproof vest made of beer cans. Someone positioned off- camera shoots at him; the bullets pierce the cans, causing the beer to spill out. Fliri falls to the ground with every hit, then gets up again, soaked and dripping liquid. The faux terrorist is transformed into a walking fountain. Fliri’s videos are sketches, half-serious jokes. The actions remain suspended in a void, because nothing explains or justifies them. Music may accompany the gestures, but there is never a voice, which might bring the situation too close to the level of reality. Fliri is inspired by silent film and by the jinxed protagonists of old cartoons—characters to whom everything happened, but who always got back up to begin again. His characters are like grown children. They have become too old to be heroes, as suggested by the work’s title. These characters can no longer free themselves from their banal and trivial misfortune, their gestures will always be a bit naive, and they are destined to be feckless dreamers.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.