Oliver Laric at The Center for Contemporary Art

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Artist: Oliver Laric

Venue: The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, Israel

Curated by: Chen Tamir

Date:  May 20 – July 18, 2015

Photography: Images courtesy of the artists, The Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin

Difference and repetition are common subjects for Laric, especially when looking at the productive potential inherent to reproduction. The copy carries with it the catalysts for its duplication, alteration, and change. It is an imprint of the process of its creation, a fossil of its own evolution. The precursor is no better or worse than its reproduction, but rather both can be valid entities in a multiplicity that denies the hierarchy between the two in favor of endless variation.

Versions (2012) is an ode to variability in the form of an ongoing series of video works. They feature animated sequences recycled in Disney films, postage stamps of ancient Roman copies of Greek sculptures, Japanese comics that reuse poses and drawing styles, and a host of sequences that are altered and edited each time Laric remakes the work. There are now several versions of Versions, all similar in content and format, philosophizing variability.

Yuanmingyuan Columns (2014) takes as its subject matter the columns of the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) in Beijing that were plundered by French and British troops during the Second Opium War in 1860. The surviving columns, which date back to the Qing dynasty, made their way to the KODE Art Museum of Bergen in Norway via a Norwegian general who served in the Chinese army. The columns were recently returned to China, but not before they were 3D scanned. The scans are available for download on Laric’s website so that anyone can view or use them, providing new possibilities for propagation and variation.

Laric’s long interest in variation, in how an image, object, or idea is altered according to its user’s needs or context, seems to have itself evolved from ideas of copying to the notion of “morphing,” a transformation that alters the very essence of a given thing, rather than repeat or reproduce it. The video Untitled (2014) is comprised mostly of scenes of character transformation in animated sequences: Familiar figures from children’s movies, superheroes, and anime characters give way to more obscure references, such as a 3D model of a statue of Hermanubis, an ancient mythical figure combining the Greek god, Hermes, with the Egyptian god, Anubis, who takes the hybrid form of a human body and jackal head. Untitled also includes a time-lapse drawing of a “fursuit” head such as is worn by “furries,” members of a subculture united by a reverence of animal figures with human characteristics, usually inspired by cartoons though spanning far beyond.

Cartoons and time-lapse digital renditions lend themselves easily to giving form to metamorphosis since they naturally show a visual process of becoming. The ability to switch from male to female, or from human to object or animal, provides an outlet for the transcendence of the self’s limitations and gives way to multiple modes of self-conceptualization.

Be it through morphing or copying, it is the distinctions and translations between one thing and another that Laric explores. His work mirrors back to us a cultural imaginary that takes many forms, but returns us to the same constant, that of change itself.

This exhibition is made possible with generous support from the Austrian Cultural Forum and Outset.

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Yuanmingyuan Columns, 2014

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Yuanmingyuan Columns, 2014

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