Diego Marcon, still from Monelle, Italy, United Kingdom, 2017, 16:00, sound, no dialogue. Courtesy the artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London.

13 Dec 2023
6:30 PM

TIFF Bell Lightbox, Wavelengths

This program exhibits moving image works that explore the entanglement of sites and their simulations. Specifically, these films draw out the virtual dimensions of real sites, and the real dimensions of the virtual, often in order to pinpoint political and historical fissures in reality as we understand it.

While these films formally engage virtuality, illusion, simulation, and fiction in different ways, all share an interest in sites where the real, actual, and virtual play for the same team, so to speak. Rather than exploiting the virtual for its futurism, these works take a practical and critical approach to virtual models. Through this modelling, the artist may consider and play with a site and its contours, treating it as material and not simply as subject. What otherwise might simply be setting, architecture, or backdrop becomes a lively configuration of entities―organic and inorganic―to manipulate.

These films also scratch at the politics of the virtual double including and beyond the human subject―beyond the relatively limited threat of deepfakes―and into a generalized sense of unreality. Extending it into architecture and landscape, this sort of doubling throws the legitimacy of the real―and of the way power is arranged in it―into question.

― Aria Dean

Playing as part of this program:

  • Diego Marcon, Monelle, Italy, United Kingdom, 2017, 16 min., sound, no dialogue
    Combining CGI and 35mm film, Monelle glimpses the formal structures and occupants of an abandoned Italian fascist interior in violent flashes.
  • Rachel Rose, A Minute Ago, USA, 2014, 8 min., English
    In a meditation on time, Rachel Rose draws together the scene of a natural disaster and the famed Philip Johnson Glass House. The two moments cross-pollinate as a blurry animation of a Johnson-like figure delivers a “tour” of the home. Modernity and disaster…
  • Aria Dean, Abattoir, U.S.A.! , USA, 2023, 10 min., sound, no dialogue
    Abattoir U.S.A.! is a survey of the interior of a slaughterhouse, rendered in Unreal Engine. The film considers the abattoir as both an allegorical structure and a literal, material site where the boundary between human, animal, and machine is produced and reproduced, and where civil society’s intimacy with death is embodied.
  • Harun Farocki, Serious Games II: Three Dead, Germany, 2010, 8 min., sound
    Serious Games II shows us a live-action simulation of a military operation staged in 29 Palms. It is the sole film in Harun Farocki’s video series Serious Games I-IV dedicated to the role of interactive digital simulations in the War on Terror to depart from filming soldiers’ interacting with virtual landscapes. It is a war game, but it might as well be a Hollywood movie set.
  • Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson, Mono Lake, USA, 1968, 19 min., English
    A home video and photo montage of a trip taken by American earthwork artists Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, and Nancy Holt to collect materials for Smithson’s nonsite works, Mono Lake is a sort of coda to the programme. Smithson’s nonsite is a concept that is accelerated and therefore troubled by the capacities of virtual technologies. At the film’s closing, Smithson burns a map of Nevada, the cinders of which later were incorporated into Mono Lake Nonsite (Cinders Near Black Point).

Site and Simulation is a screening program curated by Aria Dean and presented at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in partnership with The Vega Foundation. It coincides with Aria Dean: Abattoir, U.S.A.!, an exhibition on view at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery until January 7, 2024.