Skolska 28 Gallery, Prague

Karni Dorell & Jennifer Protas – The Expanding Mall, cont’d.
Review by Charlotta Kotik April 14 – May 11, 2012
Curated by Charlotta Kotik, Skolska 28 Gallery, Prague, CZ

First conceived for the Nieuwe Vide Gallery in Haarlem, the Netherlands,’ The Expanding Mall cont’d.’ is the most recent version of the multimedia project by Karni Dorell and Jennifer Protas. Living in the US and the Netherlands respectively, the artists continue to jointly develop particular versions of this site-specific installation. It is truly a collaborative project ever evolving with an open concept and no set boundaries. It is as much about options accorded to the artists by using various aspects of technology as it is about the age-old subject of depicting people and the various aspects of their predicament.

The word “mall” was coined to describe a heavy mallet used in the game of pall-mall; later it became synonymous with the game itself and/or the lane or alley where the game was played, and ultimately it was used for a pedestrian street or promenade lined with shops. It has always been associated with the gathering of crowds and their movement; thus it is a well- fitting title.

Dorell’s contribution to the piece visualizes the interaction of individuals brought together by circumstances beyond their control. They are dealing with their corporeal physicality in a circumscribed space. Although together, they are unknown to one other, the theme of anonymity is a strong undercurrent of the piece. The figures are subjected to the dictum of performing the same movement repeatedly. Two digital projections, the result of recording numerous protagonists going through their routine, differ substantially. The one, where the figures converge into a thick cluster of shapes, only to ultimately disperse into a void, seems to give the protagonists a degree of freedom. It is the linear arrangement, formally effective in its strict geometry, that brings to mind the militaristic attitudes prevalent in modern history. This recognition makes the set poignant, yet distressing.

In Protas’s two slide projections there is only one protagonist – the artist herself shown from multiple viewpoints. The intimate concentration of the figure focused on the repetition of uniform tasks, makes her a counterpart to Dorell’s anonymous personages. Protas chooses to create a piece about universal feelings and attitudes through the repetitious photographic record of her own autobiographic predicament. The monotony of landscape is a vantage point which mirrors a society condemned to repeat itself with all it’s flaws and favors. An architectural element is created in the “tower” of slides attached one above the other as if they were miniature building blocks. The slides, depicting various aspects of landscape, are illuminated from within by a string of lights, activated by the movement of the circling train set.

The rotating movement is the key element of the whole installation. However it is a movement that repeats itself endlessly thus not resulting in comprehensible change. The figures seem to be striving for a goal far outside their reach. If their submission to the repetitive tasks will bring them closer to their aspirations, one wonders if they will ever be rewarded. There is, however, a distinct possibility to move closer to a conclusion in the next version of a Protas/Dorell installation.

Charlotta Kotik, Brooklyn, New York.

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