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The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: A group show opens at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre
Parker Ito, Installation view: A Lil Taste of Cheeto in the Night, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist and Château Shatto.

BAKU.- YARAT Contemporary Art Centre presents ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’, a group show bringing together recent and new work that explores the ways in which networked images of bodies and characters structure and transform viewers’ identities. The exhibition is co-curated by Suad Garayeva, Curatorial Director at YARAT and Michael Connor, Artistic Director of Rhizome at the New Museum in New York.

Working across a range of media, international artists Neil Beloufa, Hannah Black, Camille Henrot, Parker Ito, Bunny Rogers, Jasper Spicero and Lu Yang each examine themes of ownership, visual identity and the relationship between a society and their images.

Central to the exhibition is Pierre Huyghe and Phillipe Parreno’s seminal project No Ghost Just a Shell (1999- 2002) which explored the artistic reuse of an anime character. For ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’, Huyghe’s two videos from this series will be shown. While Huyghe was drawn to his character’s seeming emptiness, the more recent works in the exhibition amplify the idea that the onscreen image is more than just a shell: fictive characters have real world effects and affects.

In several of the works in the exhibition, artists explore the ways in which onscreen images can begin to define a fan’s identity or even physical body. Artist Bunny Rogers portrays herself in the guise of characters from two animated television series, transported to the setting of the Columbine High School library, site of a devastating 1999 school shooting in the US (an incident of actual violence that was often portrayed as a consequence of the perpetrators’ excessive identification with video games). Hannah Black presents a newly commissioned video work made with professional and amateur bodybuilders in Baku, whose bodies emulate Photoshopped fitness magazines and CGI film superheroes.

Works in the exhibition also highlight the ways in which onscreen images allow for bodily norms to be distorted and transcended. Exhibited for the first time at YARAT Contemporary Art Centre, Camille Henrot’s drawings are inspired by a music video by popular American musician Nicki Minaj, highlighting the way they play with and against the ghosts of colonialism, exoticism and racial stereotypes in contemporary onscreen culture. Exploring similar themes, Yang’s installation includes a video game starring a character created by the artist - a heroic, anthropomorphic uterus.

Furthermore, the exhibition highlights the ways in which affinities with onscreen characters can play a ambivalent role which is both liberating and limiting at the same time. For example, Jasper Spicero’s works are fantastical narratives that are set in bleak, hopeless environments such as prisons and foreclosed condos. Parker Ito’ssite- specific installation comprises paintings combining layered text and imagery hanging from chains along with sculptural works, an all-encompassing environment that offers hallucinatory escape even as it entangles the body. Similarly, Neil Beloufa presents a film that portrays teenagers in Banff as subjects of study for a team of statisticians, serving as a metaphor for the way in which all of the hopes and fears and attachments we form in the age of social media are subjected to surveillance and targeted marketing.

Michael Connor, Artistic Director as Rhizome says, ‘Fan art – work that's made by fans of a film or video game or other work of fiction, often featuring characters in situations that may or may not appear in the original work – was a major source of inspiration for this exhibition, and for many of the artists in it. We even imagined the curation of exhibition as a kind of fan art for Carson McCullers’ novel of the same name, which I have not read in almost twenty years, but which once affected me profoundly…’

Suad Garayeva, Curatorial Director at YARAT says, ‘At YARAT Contemporary Art Centre we are committed to showing important and cutting edge contemporary art. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter explores a particular strand of art in the post-digital realm, and introduces these rapidly evolving artistic practices to our audiences’.

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