Shahryar Nashat, Plaque (Slab), Video, 6 minutes, 40 second.
Shahryar Nashat, still from The Regulating Line, 2005. Video, 3 min 40 sec., Courtesy Elisabeth Kaufmann, Zurich.
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
South Shore Road
+ 44 (0)191 478 1810
Ground Floor Cinema
Shahryar Nashat, Plaque (Slab) 2007
February 2-April 19, 2009
The 6 minute 40 second video, Plaque (Slab) 2007, is devoted to the celebrated Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. Incorporating original recordings by Gould, remixed by Nashat, it also visually captures Gould’s live performance. In the 1964 TV recording, the pianist plays on a stage set with three imposing faux marble monuments. Within this final edit Glenn Gould appears in a short sequence of jaunty stop action animation. However Plaque mostly documents the manufacture of a concrete slab in a Berlin factory. The scale and form of the giant monolith slabs are reminiscent of those used in the 1964 film. The confrontation of these archive images with footage of the industrial production of a concrete slab raises the question of the role of the performer-interpreter.
The soundtrack for Shahryar Nashat's wordless video, Plaque (Slab), 2007, is Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata in C Minor, BWV911. The Toccata is a multi-sectional work that uses a fugal, or contrapuntal structure — the layering of multiple variations of the same theme. Nashats video is also structured much like a fugue, employing a kind of contrapuntal technique that begins by erecting the main theme or subject (a concrete slab of monumental proportions, 450 x 150 x 35 cm). The subject then appears in variation successively in each connecting passage, becoming two separate but interdependent manifestations of the same theme.
The slab appears next in a series of 64 stills from a Glenn Gould TV-studio performance, spliced together in an abrupt manner that reflect the developing music. The disjuncture dissects and isolates Gould's eccentric and characteristic gestures at the piano, which are contrasted greatly by the towering faux-marble slabs looming stage left and right. The staccato frames and changes in perspective draw attention to the monumental proportions of the original inspiration for Nashats slab.
True to the Italian root of Toccata (to touch) Nashat quickly moves the film into a much more visceral realm. An oozing mixture of loudly slopping concrete fills the screen as it comes pouring out of roaring machinery, almost violently filling a mould of wood and rebar. The camera delicately follows the movements of two men as their stern faces and strong arms harness the messy concrete. As they level the surface with their hands, the camera caresses their figures with an equal amount of sensuality. The wet concrete gushing violently from these crusty machines, we realize now, constitutes the primordial soup from which the replica monolith emerges. Differing from the original, highly stylized elements of decorum in the TV-studio set, this monolith has been transposed to a language of rough, modern materials and presented in an industrial setting. Without completely objectifying these men, they are shown rather as proprietors of the symbolically laden formal incarnation of Nashats subject, the monolithic slab.
Born in 1975 in Teheran, Iran, Shahryar Nashat lives and works in Berlin. Recent solo exhibitions include Placed High for Dramatic Impact at Galleria S.A.L.E.S., Rome (2008), Das Beispiel at attitudes, Geneva (2008), Because the ultimate foundation is not founded at Elisabeth Kaufmann, Zurich (2006) and Shadows collide with people, the Swiss Pavilion for the 51st Venice Biennial (2005). His work has also been shown as part of H-Box, touring to Centre Pompidou, Paris / MUSAC Leòn / Tate Modern, London / MUSAC Luxembourg, (2008), Art Unlimited, Basel, Switzerland (2008), The Eye of the Storm at Kunstmuseum St. Gallen Switzerland (2007),Globos Sonda / Trial Balloons at MUSAC, Leon, Spain (2006) and Gravity at De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam (2006).