At the meeting of “virus,” body, shadow…
by Zhang Xiaotao, Beijing November 2010
Beat Kuert is a video artist from Switzerland. He has been experimenting with the language of video for many years, using a post-editing technique similar to computer imaging software that distorts and de-familiarizes real images to create a unique visual vocabulary. He uses this visual language as the visual elements that make up poor quality prints or silk-screen images to create severe displacement and deviation from the real world: he screens out in-between colors through this filtering process, leaving behind two extremes of black, white and intense reds, greens, yellows, blues—primitive colors. What does red signify? Do these provocative man-made colors reveal the artist’s inner fears, or sweet sensuality? These are the colors of the world within the artist’s heart; how can the artist observe and discover the secrets of the outside world and the artist’s interior world through the video camera? You can interpret the artist’s interior and exterior worlds through the visually thrilling effects of these computer virus garbled images and printing errors caused by low quality image pixels. Perhaps these distorted images liken the artist to the ancient alchemists and the alchemy process: these images are his “gold within the heart.” Through digital technology, he has taken images of the outside world and turned them into an art language code of “nonsense print” to achieve a psychological virtual reality that generates a realistic landscape. In the video work E+MC2, the colors of the burning room and the blazing body of the sensual woman have gone through minimalist editing leaving behind two colors: black and red. The figure blends into the setting; here amidst the color red, the fire, and people, the pain seems to disappear into an ecstatic sea of color. We can feel the mood of the boundless diffusion of red. We discover a contradictory encounter of the visual and auditory when we link fear and trembling with the voice of a sensual seductive woman as we pass through dark corridors; this unexpected feeling makes the viewer “short-circuit” in a disoriented lapse of memory. Generally, the artist often creates work that maps out a certain concept of “presence,” but it is actually the artist in the here and now reconstructing the memory of his childhood and adolescent psychology. We can use these images to analyze and decode the secrets within these fragments to discover what is concealed behind the visual prototypes and psychological elements of the artist’s images.
In the video work Secrets of a Watermelon (9’47” Video 2006/2007), he creates a multiple narrative structure around a girl and a watermelon and the elusively complex implications between man and object, between people, between man and incidence; he uses these symbols to create a labyrinth of language. Does the artist see the watermelon as a lover? Or as a baby? As a sex toy? It seems that love is also an injury that accompanies you and dialogues with you day and night, meets you in your dreams and fights with you in reality. The destroyed watermelon can be food as well as blood flowing from a wound… these images make up the dual contradictory relationship between the body and matter. (And one day I had my days and I was thirsty for blood red flesh for blood-blood red flesh the flesh of a watermelon.) These lyrics cause a displacement in our interpretation of the video work; here, if the watermelon is not an object or a person, then what is it?
Beat Kuert’s images include sensual female bodies and various body parts, ruins, water, watermelon, dark passageways, and disordered rooms. These symbols or images constitute the logical connections within a certain language: at this moment, the body becomes a landscape of desire, the battleground of desire, the instruments of desire, domination and submission, eroticism and violence, narcissism and self-torture, memory and forgetting, all magically intertwined. Within this language, we can see the splattered traces of the soul as it weaves through time and space. In the passage of time and space in black and white films, in the alluring songs of the sirens, in the tongue of sensuality, on the surface of exposed genitals… we see death, sensuality, beauty and pleasure overlap, the meeting of the soul and the flesh, dreams and reality, the alternation between the body and its shadow. Perhaps when the body dies, the shadow lives or when the body is dying, the shadow is living. Is this the pain, the bliss and the sound of night’s boundless journey?