Occupying Territory

23 April 2008 - 10 August 2008

Presence and absence occupy an intense psychological territory in the video works of Anna Gaskell, Miranda July and Rosemarie Trockel. The selected videos imply narratives that extend beyond the filmic actions portrayed, be they the emotionally loaded videos of Anna Gaskell, the affectively distant shorts by Miranda July, or the abstract trick films of Rosemarie Trockel. In these works, through the technique of montage, a series of unconnected sequences are developed in a continuum that is homogenous and highly suggestive of intense psychological states, the heart and reason to be. The five works in the program have a distinct visual appeal that draws the viewer into their meta-narratives by the sheer strength of the images. Allegories, metaphors, formal analogies constitute the basis of the visual syntax of the artists. Through the use of these rhetorical tools, and with apparently simple filmic means, they address the issue of territory, each one in her own very specific way: Anna Gaskell the feeling of displacement and loss; Miranda July the subconscious battle for the occupation of public space, and Rosemarie Trockel the creative possibilities and the emotional vagaries of domestic space.

Curator: Paolo Colombo


Rosemarie Trockel (Schwerte, Germany, 1952) lives and works in Cologne. She has exhibited internationally since the early 1980s. In her work she has employed a feminist viewpoint as a tool of analysis of social representation and stereotyping. Through a series of different techniques, that go from drawing, to sculpture, to her trade-mark "knitting" works, she has explored the boundaries between the public domain and the interior life and the psychology of the individual.

Since the early 1990s, she has exhibited her videos, characterized by a simple, direct and apparently under-produced approach. In her early 1990s video works, Trockel addresses the occupation of domestic space, evidencing the artistic possibilities incidental to a domain that is perceived as alienating and constraining.

"à la Motte" shows a moth eating into a knit surface, to immediately reverse this act and restore the surface as was in its initial state. The illusion of the moth eating away is generated by the technique of stop-motion film, in which single frames are edited in a continuum to create the sense of movement. Within the art historical context, "à la Motte" is a direct reference to Trockel’s own "knitting" works and to the slashed canvases by Fontana; in the wider cultural context, it alludes to the role of Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, who spun the web by day, to undo it during the night, as a metaphor of the never ending and never-completed work by the artist.

In "Mr.Sun", Trockel’s camera lingers to investigate every formal aspect of an electric stove, to Brigitte Bardot’s singing of the title song. Throughout the video, the superimposed and out of synch image of the stove intimates the alienation of household work, and the condition of emotional disconnection and solitude within the home, in contrast to the sun-drenched idyllic atmosphere of the soundtrack.

"Interview" presents a series of hotplates from an electric stove, a recurrent element in Trockel’s sculptural work. In a visual reference to 1960s Op-Art, the hotplates perform a silent dance, and dialogue among themselves as if they were engaged in a reciprocal interview.


Miranda July (Barre, Vermont, 1974) is a performing artist, a writer and a filmmaker. She currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Her work has been exhibited at The Kitchen, at the Guggenheim Museum, at the Museum of Modern Art, and in the 2002 and 2004 Whitney Biennials. She wrote, acted in and directed her first feature film, "Me and You and Everyone We Know", in 2005. It was awarded the Caméra d’or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, also in 2005. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and Zoetrope. Her collection of short stories "No One Belongs Here More Than You", published by Scribner in 2007, has been defined as "a stunning debut, the work of a writer with a spectacularly original and compelling voice." Miranda July is currently completing her second feature film.

"Haysha Royko", is a single long take. Three people negotiate space and energy in the waiting room of the Portland Airport. Color halos project from the bodies of the three individuals, apparently unaware of being recorded. In an off beat and ironic way, the halos indicate the passengers’ subconscious vying for a space and territory. The title stems from the name of a woman the artist casually encountered at the time she was shooting the video. In "Haysha Royko", an apparently anodyne moment is given significance by the artist, whose work, with grace and sensitivity, often points out the idiosyncrasies and the odd logic of casual everyday events.


Anna Gaskell (Des Moines, Iowa, 1969) received a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from Yale University. She currently lives and works in New York. Her early work consisted of self-portrait photographs. Soon thereafter she began photographing young girls acting out stories, often embodying characters and scenes from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In the technique of video she found the perfect medium to give a voice to her narratives, drawing inspiration from a number of literary and cinematic sources. Her carefully staged, lit and edited sequences exemplify her notion of "elliptical narratives", enigmatic yarns that are spun through allegories and metaphors, often addressing issues related to transitional periods in the life of individuals: that of coming of age, or a sudden awareness of a hidden reality, or an agonizing sense of loss and psychological unease.

"Still Life" shows a young woman tracing her steps, looking for herself and for her double in an uninhabited Italianate garden on a cloudy day. The video is characterized by a pervasive sense of uncertainty: there is an alternating of objective and subjective takes; the triple split of the screen provides the viewer with three different contemporaneous points of view; the lack of sunshine, forcing a lack of telltale shadows, situates the action in a time that is suspended. The action ends when the young woman encounters her double (herself?) in a labyrinth of boxwood, after having roamed the barren territory of the garden that is the objective correlative of her own state of mind.