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Indepth Arts News:

"Aernout Mik: Refraction"
2005-06-23 until 2005-09-10
New Museum of Contemporary Art
New York, NY, USA

The New Museum of Contemporary Art will present Refraction, a newly commissioned work by Dutch artist Aernout Mik, from June 23 - September 10, 2005. Refraction is the second work from the Three M Project to be exhibited at the New Museum. The Three M Project is a series of works jointly developed and commissioned by a consortium of American institutions - Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles - formed to stimulate the creation of new work by artists not yet well known in the United States. Aernout Mik: Refraction is organized by Dan Cameron, Senior Curator at Large.

Aernout Mik is known internationally for his video installations that stage narratives based on semi-imagined catastrophes, evoking uncertainty about what is really happening. In his surreal, often semi-apocalyptic scenarios, Miks work clearly comments on the frequent inability of humans to react instinctively and individually to catastrophes on monumental scales. In Refraction, Miks most elaborate scenario to date, the viewer immediately assumes to be on the scene of a wide-scale disaster. An accident has just occurred in which a bus has flipped over onto its side on highway in the middle of the Romanian countryside. Police and rescue workers swarm over the accident site, digging at rubble and picking through the interior of the bus. Traffic is backed up for miles behind the accident, and many motorists have left their vehicles to find out what they can about the cause.

As the camera zooms in on the accident scene to follow rescue workers inside and around the bus, it quickly becomes apparent that for such a seemingly large-scale accident, there are no visible signs of victims - no bloodstains, no bodies on stretchers and no sobbing witnesses. In fact, while the faces of those present bear the appropriate look of concern and focus, there seems to be very little autonomous emotive behavior occurring. There is something eerily mechanical about the way that each person performs their duties according his or her role, without any individual reaction to the wreckage before them.

The participants in the scene who do seem to show a clear manifestation of will are the herd of sheep that suddenly approach the site of the accident, swarm across the highway, and continue their journey on the other side, departing as quickly as they came. Mik is hoping that most of us will identify with the sheep and pigs, who manifest a clear will and intent regardless of any obstacle, rather than with the humans on the accident scene, who seem passive, powerless and ineffectual. His staged crises are meant to make noticeable the increasingly universal human experience of indifference toward ones fellow human beings.

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