Beauty and the Right to the Ugly

Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s new film installation Beauty and the Right to the Ugly, conceived specifically for the Collective’s City Dome space, explores her interest in social relationships.

The Rotterdam based artist sets the film in Het Karregat, a community centre in Eindhoven, Netherlands, which enhances ways of communal living. Built in the 1970s, the building is a centre for cultural, social and educational facilities to allow social connection. As is often the case with her work, the film was created through a public shoot, instigating a type of co-directed performance piece that breaks down barriers between artist and art, just as the community centre breaks down social divisions. It comes across as an ongoing discussion and an exploration of this unique building’s possibilities.

The installation is over three screens, so that the viewer is surrounded by moving image, the sound echoing in the rotund gallery. Although this all-encompassing effect is more stimulating, the film pieces chosen mean that it can be too busy. Quite a bit of the filming involves Dutch conversation: this is played too loud to not be distracting from the subtle background noises of other screens which beg to be appreciated. It is documentary-like, felt especially when one tries to concentrate on the English subtitles, but that is not what is wanted from an art film.

The dispersed times that are free from loud conversation in almost an hour of footage show long, empty shots of the industrial and colourful building, and touching movements between characters: these are more subtle and abstract in their meaning, leaving interpretation open to the viewer. These investigations act as a reference to the architect Lina Bo Bardi, with Oldenborgh even drawing her title from a 1982 architectural exhibition which explored the possibilities of utopian architecture and community living.

Van Oldenborgh might have had more success if she had noted that less is more, but the subtle, beautiful, and intriguing shots are worth waiting for.

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