PERTH INSTITUTE FOR CONTEMPORARY ART / BIENNALE OF ELECTRONIC ARTS PERTH 2007
Boris+Natascha’s Meditations series is a guided meditation on 21st century anxiety.
Realtime Magazine #80
First left after the train station, Hannah Mathews has curated a cracker of a show at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, entitled I took a deep breath…. The darkened main gallery is completely occupied by Ulf Langheinrich’s WAVEFORM B, a monolithic strobe-lit piece on a horizontal screen. (…) Upstairs is the equally contemplative work by BORIS+NATASCHA. Now, “meditative” is a term that’s usually classified as ‘damning with faint praise’, but Meditations 1-5 decisively moves to reclaim that word for people with an ounce of irony left in their art-wracked frames. The pair have partitioned the gallery space into five discretely curtained meditation chambers. In each, a single channel video piece encourages us to contemplate the tightening of our muscles as we are guided into the transcendental depths of suburban paranoia and insecurity. A hypnagogic voice intones histrionic scripts reconstructed from discount bin new age chill-out cassettes, backed by synth pads and reverberating gongs and all: “Now think… when was the last time you changed the battery of the outside motion detector?” / ”Keep focusing on the feeling that you will always be this stupid, that you will always be this low, and that you are a genuine phoney.” The dialogue sways between internal monologue and instructional recording as the faces of suburbanites depicted on the screen sway into and out of ill-contained anxiety and painful self-consciousness. It’s enough to put me off yoga for a month.
A challenging breather amid techno-babble: The third Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth will bring together some of the world’s leading explorers of the intersection of art, science and technology who are challenging preconceptions of creativity in the 21st century. (…) More disturbances await the viewer in Meditations, Boris and Natascha’s twisted re-imagining of self-help videos that play on our anxiety and simmering sense of panic. When you do get upstairs, there are two works, George Khut’s Cardiomorphologies v.2 and BORIS+NATASCHA’s Meditations series. Boris and Natascha take their name from Rocky and Bullwinkle characters but their work is a long way from popular culture cliché. Indeed, despite its irony, it’s pretty heavy work; full of the futility of day-to-day life while pitifully trying to fill it with some transcendental meaning. Viewed in small black cubicles with private screens, these Meditations layer meditation like soundtracks over what become anxious situations, such as being on the train, going through your existence at the office or getting through another night alone in front of the television. I enjoyed this series – the pathetic nature of the characters combined with the simplistic paradox of being sold calming techniques while living in a hyper motion world made me feel better.(…)I Took a Deep Breath is a valuable addition to BEAP 07. It engages the viewer ethically while setting up a space in which you can augment a very physical response to the role we have given technology in our lives and the expectations that arise.
The West Newspaper
I found it deeply political actually. It was one of the most empathetic critical pieces I have ever seen. I’m taking that view that in the first one minute of each meditation, I could strongly identify with each person, and thought processes, the situation…then as the meditation went on the anxiety amplified. Although I don’t live with that level of distress it made me understand that I am not so different from the mentally dis-eased. (…)There was also no release for the audience, (…) their meditations are not supposed to be journeys towards the light. They focus, rather, on the fears at the core of contemporary culture.
Push green button to meditate.There are five video vignettes or ‘meditations’. Between them four photographs are scattered ‘as footnotes to the work’. Each meditation centers on someone who, visually, is silent and still. But audio headsets reveal their tumultuous inner cycles of paranoia, numbness and distress. The nightly news prompts an elderly man to wonder if his motion sensor alarm batteries need replacing. A man on a train loosens his tie and invisibly suffers a panic attack. A demure woman shifts uncomfortably at a party as her boyfriend explores his deepening mistrust of her. A man stares at a cityscape through glass, trying to master his mental grip on the dizzying, high-pressure world of money and power.
In each case we accompany the character from mild anxiety to amplified mental distress, and it’s a convincing, deeply empathetic political critique.
Then there is meditation number one. “We would go backwards if we didn’t take risks,” is Boris’ defense of its distressing content. He stands behind the idea of art as an important, confronting force. “The most confronting thing is to be confronted with yourself,” he adds.
Thred Magazine #5
A series of five guided visualisations, Meditations is a twisted re-imagining of self-help videos that play with western society’s obsession with fear, albeit with a slightly more sinister bent. While works of this kind usually lead the viewer into the ‘light’, Meditations welcomes us into a darker realm of fear, anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks. Shrouded in darkness and wearing headphones, the viewer is placed in a secluded field of meta-narratives, then lulled through a series of relaxation techniques to end up in a worst case scenario. It remains ambiguous whether the narrations are speaking to character or stemming from their internal voice. This is anti-relaxation for tough times.
A SPACE FOR REFLECTION: BORIS + NATASCHA, with Meditations, suggested strategies, through “pure video language”, in how to engage apprehension in our time.
Broadsheet Magazine, Vol.36 No.4
This interactive exhibition is a celebration of the Third Biennale of Electronic Arts. All of the pieces on display explore the theme of stillness, and showcase intersections between technology, art and science. Meditations, a piece by German-Australian duo BORIS + NATASCHA, is a sardonic self-help exercise which leads viewers through an assortment 21st-century anxieties. Enter the darkness, clap on some headphones and try some ‘relaxation techniques’ that are anything but soothing.
Boris and Natascha are accomplished solo artists hailing from Germany and Australia respectively. Individually they have exhibited works in Berlin, New York and Australia’s leading contemporary art centres. But when their artistic powers combine, they transform into the sinister duo known simply as Boris and Natascha. Their Meditations has surfaced for the Biennale of Electronic Art in Perth. This conceptual guided meditation through human despair complements the Biennale’s universal theme of stillness. Meditations consists of five slightly twisted video vignettes that re-think, re-imagine and rework the concept of the self-help video. The viewer wears headphones and sits in darkness while they are confronted with the fear and anxiety of Western society. Boris and Natascha work with photography, video, mixed media and text to hold up a mirror to society in the hope that viewers will confront themselves. Meditations is a tongue-in-cheek exploration into the darker consciousness of human beings to a place where paranoia and panic-attacks reign supreme. Boris and Natascha aim to confront and challenge. They describe Meditations as a form of anti-relaxation in a world where fear is prevalent and is used as a form of manipulation. Open your mind, strap yourself in and succumb to the dark world that exists in the work of this dastardly duo.
It really kind of put me in a strange, connected kind of mood, if that makes any sense.
BORIS + NATASCHA’s work, ‘Meditations #1-5’, is a series of cubicles that the viewer sits in to watch short video pieces of tortured souls, sitting. The subjects of the camera, however anguished they appear, are truly comfortable in comparison to those perched on the seats in the cubicles watching them.