Black Box: Oliver Laric — NO TOFU

Originally published at NO TOFU

The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum is currently featuring Oliver Laric’s Versions (2012) as part of the museum’s Black Box series. The long running series brings in the museum’s rotating video exhibits, with two rooms dedicated to continuous viewing. Versions opened to the public on May 30 and will run through October 5 of this year.

Versions is a collage of sorts, bringing together strikingly similar images and clips from a variety of sources. The work is meant to challenge the viewer’s assumptions about authority and ownership by putting two or more supposedly different visuals side by side. The uniform nature of things we associate with uniqueness becomes most apparent when classic statuary or animation is featured. The identical movements and posing seem to beg the question of who copied whom, while drawing connections that link works, mediums, and time periods.

The film is narrated by a British actress, and the voiceover utilizes lines from various authors. The juxtaposition of the authoritative narration and pop culture imagery draws the audience in, while the often moving prose of the dialogue creates a sense of deeper meaning. One stand out line that in many ways seemed to encapsulate the quandary posed to the audience was simple: “I have only seen paintings of this painting.” It’s a phrase I keep returning to even days later, as I continue to debate the meaning and value of an original after mass proliferation.

Oliver Laric’s Versions can be seen at the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C., through October 5, 2014.

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