Second Lives: Jeux masqués et autres Je

462a2f2974.jpgHermine Bourgadier, Dragon Ball Z, 2009

Today more and more people decide to escape reality in order to make up a new identity. Some are donning a “mask” that allows them to express themselves freely. Others live vicariously through the avatar they have created to navigate virtual worlds the way themselves would often dream of living their ‘real’ life. But multiple or split identities are not confined to intentional escapes, some people have theirs imposed upon them by a society that wouldn’t allow otherness and dissidence.

Second Lives: Jeux masqués et autres Je, the exhibition open throughout the Summer at the Casino de Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain, presents critical as well as humorous works on contemporary strategies of construction and deconstruction of identity.

0aasusisiskrantune.jpgSusi Krautgartner, Uncanny Valley, 2006 – 2010

susan-anderson-high-glitz-01.jpgSusan Anderson, High Glitz. The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants. Beauty, Age 4, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2006

0aastrangersienthtei.jpgBeryl Koltz, Strangers in the Night, 2011

The recent development of cyberculture in the “communication society” contributes largely to the multiplication of identity. Online social networks enable everybody to create multiple profiles; virtual realities are – veritably – lived through “avatars”. This “poly-belonging” enables the individual to discover and express multiple facettes of himself/herself, to have the freedom to play with one’s own identity – through masks or not – and to open the way to otherness.

The exhibition might deal with a theme that has been examined over and over again in exhibitions and essays dealing with the parallels existences made possible by modern technologies but the outcome nevertheless provides visitors with many opportunities for reflection. I thought i would see “just another of those shows about online/offline life” but was surprised to see how far the exhibition reached. Second Lives takes visitors from media hoaxes to the reenactment of iconic artworks, from an homage to Michael Jackson to hybridization between human and animal and from the cold analysis of our globalized individuality to the use of masks in and outside theater stages.

18_furries.jpgAlain Della Negra & Kaori Kinoshita, Furries. Still from the video

0lalataniierere.jpgAlain Della Negra & Kaori Kinoshita, La Tannière/The Den, 2009. Still from the video

Kaori Kinoshita and Alain Della Negra are showing absorbing videos that investigate ‘avatars’ and more precisely, how people handle multiple or split identities, how they relate to sex, money or beliefs according to whether they are on Second Life or in what they repeatedly call “RL” (real life).

One of the videos, La Tannière (The Den) is a series of portrays of furries, people who are fans of anthropromorphic animals to the extent that some of them have adopted a ‘furry lifestyle‘ and a minority even believe that they were born a furry. This marginal community, consisting of chimeras, half men and half animals, was created in the 80’s, when Disney anthropomorphic heroes began their invasion. Its number of members – as avatars — has increased with the internet.

the-den-dede02.jpgAlain Della Negra & Kaori Kinoshita, La Tannière/The Den, 2009. Still from the video

Hermine Bourgadier investigates another sub-culture, the one of Cosplay. The Casino de Luxembourg is showing two series. The first one follows cosplayers showing off their costumes at conventions. The second one stems from a workshop held at high school in which the artist asked students to pick up a cartoon or video game character and adopt their most typical pose. The disguise this time is most rudimentary, the accent being on gestures and expression.

esupernannnnnybd.jpgHermine Bourgadier, Super Nanny, 2010

017greeenen07b9862.jpgHermine Bourgadier, Green Lantern, 2010

09saya3ddbae84.jpgHermine Bourgadier, Saya Takagi, 2011

Deconstructing Osama takes us away from online worlds and brings us back to the front pages of newspapers. Back in November 2006 two photojournalists from Qatar-based news agency Al-Zur pulled off a brilliant coup of investigative journalism by following the trail of Dr. Fasqiyta-Ul Junat, a leader of Al Qaeda’s military wing. Fasqiyta-Ul Junat, they discovered, “was in reality an actor and singer named Manbaa Mokfhi who had appeared in soap operas on Arab television networks and was the public face of a MeccaCola advertising campaign.” The actor had merely been hired to play the role of a dangerous terrorist. After Mokfhi disappeared mysteriously, “intelligence services then invented the figure of Osama bin Laden and his associates in which to create the face of terror.”

deconstructinngosamamain.jpgJoan Fontcuberta, Deconstructing Osama, 2007

The revelation was spread on the cover of news magazines, detailed in tv news reports, and documented through exclusive photos that see him leading an incursion by Al Qaeda Taliban guerrillas, entertaining his comrades with acrobatic moves performed on the back of a mule, handing out sweets to children, working in his dromedary farm, stirring up a popular demonstration against Western imperialism, etc. The figure of Mokfhi/Fasqiyta-Ul Junat is obviously a complete fiction. He looks suspiciously like Joan Fontcuberta, an artist known for his investigations into photography’s many flirtations with deception.

0aaoosamacoverz.jpg00aadecnstructingoba.jpgJoan Fontcuberta, Deconstructing Osama, 2007. Installation view. Photo Studio Rémi Villaggi, Metz, Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain.

The very title o the exhibition, Second Lives: Jeux masqués et autres Je, refers to technology but many of the works deal with a fantasy that doesn’t need internet to flourish.

As disturbing as they are airbrushed, spray-tanned and covered in foundation, the little girls of High Glitz were portrayed by Susan Anderson just before show time as they were competing at some of America’s child beauty pageants.

susan-anderson-high-glitz-05.jpgSusan Anderson, High Glitz. The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants. Ashley, age 7, Nashville, Tennessee, 2008

imkatytyyt5868396.jpgSusan Anderson, High Glitz. The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants. Katy, age 5, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2006

The photos find an echo in Hsia-Fei Chang‘s tiny shoes. Modeled on women’s shoes, they were altered to fit the feet of very young girls. Their high heels, open-toe and ornamentation make them impractical for children. Like Anderson’s High Glitz series they evoke a sense of inappropriate seduction.

117GODIN062409Chang083.jpgHsia-Fei Chang, Blue Velvet, 2009

Aneta_Grzeszykowska.jpgAneta Grzeszykowska, Untitled Film Stills #3

nr anerta10.jpgAneta Grzeszykowska, Untitled Film Stills #10

Aneta Grzeszykowska‘s remake of Cindy Sherman’s seventies classic Untitled Film Stills was so careful it took her one year to restage all 70 original photographs. Composition, makeup, clothes, props have been rigorously recreated. However, the scenes were shot in Warsaw, not New York.

nranetta 21.jpgAneta Grzeszykowska, Untitled Film Stills #21

sherm8888an.jpgCindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #21, 1978

Previously: Que le cheval vive en moi (May the horse live in me). See also Virtual Identities at CCCS Strozzina in Florence.

Second Lives: Jeux masqués et autres Je was curated curated by Paul Di Felice, Kevin Muhlen and Pierre Stiwer . It remains open at the Casino de Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain through September 11, 2011.