Artist Talk 15.11.17
Frank Wasser was born in Dublin in 1988.
He studied Fine Art at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, Ireland and graduated with an MFA in 2012.
Wasser has exhibited and lectured internationally, recently at the Venice Biennale where he debuted his performative lecture ‘Tendencies in Contemporary Art: A history of fabricated history’ for the European Cultural Academy (August 2017).
Lately, Wasser has supported his own practice by working with artists such as Tino Sehgal and Dan Graham and working as a educator, art historian and researcher across multiple institutions, including Tate, London.
Wasser’s practice includes work with writing, performance, conversations and rumours.
Many of the visual attributes of the practice are deployed strategically to act as decoys that can unravel, scrutinise and dismiss established forms of representation.
Wasser is currently working on an exhibition that will take the form of a book (published by Ma Bibliotheque an imprint of Dr.Sharon Kivland). The book will take as it’s starting point Irelands failed relationship with Modernism through an interweaving of metafictional autobiographical fragments and collected contemporary fables. Wasser will next show work at hmm no. 11 at Somerset House, November 27th, curated and selected by Anne Tallentire and Chris Fite-Wassilak.
Wasser’s artist talk began like many others, with what seemed like a powerpoint presentation on his practice, a few biographical details, and how he was inspired. Early on in his hour-long presentation we became aware he was not in fact showing us a powerpoint but a video, which was odd but we just thought this was a way to automatically change the slides for him. Later on in the video, a bright blue image of Theresa May popped up for merely a split-second, accompanied by a cough played extremely loudly through the speakers. This surprised us quite a bit but Wasser ignored it and carried on so we thought nothing of it. This then happened a few more times, punctuating what was otherwise a very normal artist talk. Each time it happened it scared the life out of us and created an overwhelming sense of tension, as though it was building up to something. That something manifested during the last ten minutes of the artist talk when his powerpoint once again turned into footage of Theresa May, this time constant footage rather than just a split-second, accompanied again by her coughing. This carried on for about a minute, in which time we realised Wasser was now completely doubled over, arms dangling listlessly, where before he had been standing up normally. He remained in this zombie-like position as his video changed to footage of himself in various white rooms, in a blood-red filter, accompanied with emphatic, harsh, deafening white noise. The video continued for ten minutes and then finished, at which point Wasser returned to standing upright and thanked us for watching.
This work was a bizarre and quite terrifying thing to watch. To me it seemed as if him and the powerpoint were connected, and when the video, like a virus, took over everything, he too ceased to live. The work was inherently political because of Theresa May appearing. It was interesting that he should focus on her coughing – what does this say about what Wasser thinks of her? Maybe it discusses how we see politicians in general – the focus on her performance of a normal bodily function draws attention to her role as someone who is expected to be extremely composed all the time; perhaps the coughing is an attempt to humanise her. Despite this, the association of her with such a deliberately horrific film challenges this interpretation – surely the intent cannot be to praise her when she is presented in such a loud, gaudy manner.
I do not want to suggest that I did not enjoy this performance; on the contrary; I found it extremely creative. I love subversion of the norm, and his subversion of the archetypal artist talk was fascinating and thought-provoking. The aesthetic of his film, both visually and audibly, resonated with me because of its unstoppable sensory impact.
This has, later in the term, been a great source of inspiration for my film work; the sheer depth of the visuals and sound affected me greatly and gave me ideas to incorporate in my practice.