For his exhibition in the Austrian Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, artist Mathias Poledna presents a new work titled Imitation of Life.
A 35mm color film roughly three minutes in length, Imitation of Life was produced using the historic, labor-intensive technique of handmade animation and is built around a cartoon character performing a musical number. Its buoyant spirit and visual texture evoke the Golden Era of the American animation industry during the late 1930s and early 1940s. In the preceding years, the time of the Great Depression, the medium had evolved from a crude form of mass spectacle into a visual language of enormous richness and complexity that shaped and continues to resonate in our collective imaginary.
The soundtrack, another key element of the production, was recorded with a full orchestra in the style of the period at the Warner Brothers scoring stage in Los Angeles. It combines new original music created specifically for this project with a rearrangement of a popular song from the 1930s written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.
Presented in Venice, Poledna’s installation allows for a complex cross-reading with other episodes from this period: the relationship between European art and American mass culture; European emigration to the United States and American export to Europe; the presentation of animated films produced by the Disney Studios at the first film festivals in Venice; the late modernism of the Austrian Pavilion, and the period from 1938 to 1942 during which the building remained empty while Austrian artists exhibited in the German Pavilion.
Designed by the artist in collaboration with Martha Stutteregger, the publication contains contributions by the curator and commissioner of the Austrian Pavilion, Jasper Sharp; the cultural scholar Diedrich Diederichsen; and the professor of political aesthetics Esther Leslie.
- Mathias Poledna - Imitation of Life
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