The Woods, 2002 (video still), video projection, 7:35 minutes, sound, courtesy of the artist and Alon Segev Gallery, Tel Aviv
Chloe Piene's drawings and video works examine various liminal states of terror that are both personal and collective, real and imagined, while blurring the boundaries between body and subjective awareness. This work opens with a black screen and a series of invective, angry sentences, which are uttered in an unclear, scratched and husky voice. Several seconds later, the viewer is presented with an ambiguous scene, in which a group of mostly male youngsters is assembled in a circle. Every so often, various figures enter the center of the circle, and thrust their bodies in various directions in what appears simultaneously as a violent and uncontrollable assault and a ritual dance. Once in a while, the screen goes dark again and the same processed, synthesized voice interrupts the action with growling and various negative, invasive and sometimes incomprehensible sentences. Paradoxically, the use of words, of language, transforms these moments of darkness into moments of exposure.
Despite the aggressive quality of the figures' movements, the youngsters' bodies do not touch one another. They are obviously following an implicit pattern of behavior, a clear code of participation. Towards the conclusion of the work, they are suddenly seen holding a woman's body or corpse. Like a victim or a goddess, the young woman is hoisted up high above their heads with surprising care; light shines down on her, creating a bright white halo around her belly. As if undergoing a ritual of purification, the image seems to become clearer; the movements grow more refined, and a feeling of acceptance arises: "You feel free." In this manner, Piene's work brings together good and evil, the organized and the disturbed, into a single, whole experience. The work's text combines sentences written by Piene herself and sentences influenced by her correspondence with a convicted murderer.
Born in Stamford, Connecticut, 1972; lives and works in New York and Berlin