Circumstantial Pleasures review – watchable weirdness and Covid prophecy

·2 min read

Lewis Klahr is an American artist, collagist and animator who here presents a watchably weird curation of six short pieces made between 2013 and 2019. He’s cutting and pasting images from magazines and comic-books that float, bounce and pinball around the screen. The faces of Xi, Trump and Kim Jong-un will shuffle in and out of the frame like something by Terry Gilliam, and all to an accompaniment of experimental music by Daniel Rosenboom, Tom Recchion and Scott Walker; the latter’s 2012 album Bish Bosch is used, with its strident lyrics such as: “I’ve severed my reeking gonads and fed them to your shrunken face!”

Klahr’s images are often about capitalism and alienation and it’s notable how they appear to prophesy the Covid lockdown, especially the first film, Capitalist Roaders, with its images of stymied travel, scrunched and folded banknotes and people in medical masks. Perhaps the point of capitalism was that it was supposed to be internationally unfettered. In more than one film, Klahr uses the disturbing picture of the jihadi gunman who shot dead the Russian ambassador to Turkey at an Ankara art exhibition in 2016. Perhaps he couldn’t resist this image of the ultimate situationist art nightmare.

Not all the films are animations. In one, High Rise, Klahr uses a single digital video shot from a train approaching Beijing showing the eerie sci-fi megacity landscape of tall buildings. It is truly desolate. Repeatedly, Klahr appears to be creating a microcircuitry of repeating patterns. And their meaning? Perhaps there is none, or none that springs easily to mind. This could just be the endlessly ramifying texture of modern life, or perhaps the texture of our media consumption of this modern life. It is opaque, sometimes eccentrically comic, but intriguing.

• Circumstantial Pleasures is on Mubi from 23 June.

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