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Indepth Arts News:

"Mandarin Ducks: Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij"
2005-12-16 until 2006-02-12
Stedelijk Museum
Amsterdam, , NL

Mandarin Ducks, the latest film by artist duo Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij, will enjoy its first showing at the Stedelijk Museum CS from 16 December to 12 February. The film will be presented in the context of a selection of works from the Stedelijk Museum collection, chosen by the artists. Mandarin Ducks was the Dutch contribution to the 51st Venice Biennale, and was showcased over the last few months in the Rietveld Pavilion in Venice. Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij were invited to represent the Netherlands at the 2005 Biennale by Stedelijk curator Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen on behalf of the Mondriaan Foundation.  

A distinctive feature of the Venice presentation of Mandarin Ducks was the spatial situation in which there was a relation between the light and architecture of the Rietveld Pavilion in the Giardini of the Biennale, and the set used in making the film. In SMCS Mandarin Ducks will be shown in the context of documentation, paintings and objects from the Stedelijk Museum’s collection. The presentation will provide insight into the complex of artistic and socio-political considerations that played a formative role in the realization of this work. The pieces selected from the collection include Slothouber and Graatsma’s ‘cubist constructions’ from the seventies, Rietveld’s ‘Elling buffet’, a series of lithographs by Schwitters, two Ensor paintings and a television adaptation of the farce ‘Hey, Can I Have My Wife Back’ (‘Hé, mag ik mijn echtgenote terug’) by John Lanting’s Theater van de Lach from 1975, and graphic designs by Wim Crouwel for the presentation in Venice.

This month, the American art magazine Artforum selected Mandarin Ducks as one of ‘The Best of 2005’ while British newspaper The Guardian described it as “one of the most argued-over works of the Biennale”, a turbulent collage of stylistic quotations, art historical, filmic and theatrical allusions. The work could be defined as a ‘black comedy’ in which the artists comment on the neo-liberal climate of Western society at the beginning of the 21st century. In a succession of tableau-like scenes, we follow the twists and turns in the relations of ten individuals gathered in an apartment on a warm Sunday evening. In a stylized and fragmentary story that unfolds via monologues and dialogues charged with repressed hostility or unconcealed jealousy and bitterness, the artists explore the areas of tension between people, in particular those domains where social and political conflicts find their reflection in the personal. As the evening progresses, there are subtle shifts in the balance of power and various indications of personal and social disintegration. The overtly artificial acting, the way the actors are filmed and the non-linear narrative shape a strange kind of distance that makes it impossible for the viewer to surrender to a familiar filmic or theatrical ‘language’. Rather, the viewer is confronted with the codes, conventions and underlying ideology of the 'formats' that are liberally interwoven into the film.

Alongside presenting the installation at Stedelijk Museum CS, De Rijke / De Rooij are also presenting Mandarin Ducks in a solo exhibition at Seccession, Vienna (until 25 January 2006). This is followed by a solo presentation of new work in spring 2006 at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York. And, starting in summer 2006, the artist duo will spend a year living and working in Berlin at the invitation of the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD).

Mandarin Ducks will be shown each hour at half-hourly intervals, at SMCS. The film has a duration of 36 minutes.

Liz Snoijink en Annemarie Oster in Mandarin Ducks,
De Rijke / De Rooij, 2005.
Foto: Thomas Manneke

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