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Clifton Childree Creates a Gigantic Installation Comprised of Films and Found Objects at Kunsthalle Wien
Clifton Childree, Fuck that Chicken from Popeyes, 2011, © the artist, Courtesy Galerie Ernst Hilger.

VIENNA.- Clifton Childree is an analog artist in the digital era, a curator of transient and anachronistic things – a contemporary counterpart to Harry Smith, the avant-garde filmmaker and editor of the Anthology of American Folk Music, as it were. He prefers a hand crank and the herky-jerky motion and flickering of an old black-and-white slapstick movie to the smooth aesthetic of today’s high-definition resolution. He is fascinated with the tawdry glitter and honky-tonk of cheap illusory worlds from which he borrows formal concepts, ideas, and materials and turns them into 16-mm films and room-spanning installations; circuses, side shows, midnight movie theaters, and vaudevilles are the worlds he draws his inspiration from. He transforms discarded and worn-out things into venues of a theater of the grotesque, of cheap horror, and unlimited eccentricity where he revives attractions and spectacles that saw its heyday in the United States between 1880 and 1930.

With his settings conveying the charm of old-fashioned show booths, Clifton Childree also makes the atmosphere of the films come alive which he presents in them. The artist is a comedian who entertains, amuses, and surprises his visitors with a non-verbal humor in the slapstick tradition of Charlie Chaplin and others; his narratives often keel over into sinister Nosferatu scenarios or folkloristically inspired versions of a Paul McCarthy performance. Clifton Childree’s art is an art of bricolage which recycles rotten wood, old furniture, and decomposing textiles and thus articulates a counter model to present cyberspace realities and their realms of compensation and illusion. Amusement machines and ghost trains are symbols of the carnavalesque as Bachtin understood it, of an aesthetic cultural free zone beyond the society’s moral standards and rules of decent behavior, hierarchic structures of power, and the control of the intellect.

The Kunsthalle Wien’s project space offers Clifton Childree room for installing a gigantic installation comprised of films and found objects from flea markets and bulky garbage centers: nine collage movies based on Viennese picture postcard motifs from around 1900 with cross-fades of image fragments from US popular culture (Uncle Sam) hint at places of entertainment such as ball toss stands and shooting galleries from nostalgically connoted wonderworlds. The sculptural installative framework of found objects – which the artist has gathered during his week-long forays through the city of Vienna – animates the real space by extending the filmic space into it.

February 9 – March 16, 2011 – Kunsthalle Wien – Museumsplat

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