The artist Elodie Pong, who won the Swiss Award 2003 at the international film and video festival Viper, presents her first solo show in German-speaking Switzerland in the Kunsthaus Baselland. In addition to works created during the past three years, new, as yet unseen videos, installations, and a sculpture are also on display.
Under the title Where Is The Poison, Pong sounds out the potentially ‘poisonous’, ironic, and possibly subversive power of art. In an oversized dog collar lying on the floor, featuring spike-like rivets and a chain serving as a leash, she has impressions and perceptions oscillate between violence and subjugation, between refusing, slipping away, and becoming undone. Pong picks up the metaphorical moment of a freedom rediscovered, and claims it for art per se.
Dissecting the notion of intimacy, using the body as a means of expression, staging a visual show around the body in search of an identity, and capturing subtle human emotions — all these elements make up her artistic approach.
ADN/ARN Any Deal Now/Any Reality Now is a project Pong has pursued for three years by resorting to several media. She has collected far more than 300 secrets bought from their owners against payment of an individually negotiated fee. In a specially designed artificial architecture, more than 600 visitors of the ADN/ARN system in Lausanne and Paris decided on how to use masks, wigs, voice-distorting techniques, and prefabricated background motifs in an effort to render the act of recording secrets anonymous, and this by catering to individually expressed wishes. During the negotiation and recording process, the artist refrained from claptrap and grandstanding. The resulting film entitled Secrets For Sale, which highlights both the rules of the game and the variety of playing methods selected, retains its no-frills visual language, and elicits emotions such as ‘getting too much’, ‘not having enough’ or ‘wanting more’ in the viewers. We realize that we crave for something spectacular, we become aware of our voyeuristic perceptions, and we have to decide on how to handle these experiences. With Secrets For Sale, Elodie Pong puts her finger on the contemporary social phenomenon that compels people in live television shows to disclose highly private matters to an anonymous public. Secrets For Sale is an intriguing and bewildering X-ray image of our society in which everything is sold and bought.
While in Secrets For Sale the artist interacts with people unknown to her, one of her most recent works features her friends as the main protagonists. For her video A Certain General, Pong brings a red carpet — an embodiment of a person’s importance — and gives absolutely free reign to all those involved. She does not focus on the presentation of an act but on what is already there. In her video Smoke Rings Pong does not provide her actors with a script either; rather, she wants to capture elusive and hard-to-define ‘in-between’ emotions. A man and a woman, both of them sitting on a couch. He smokes while she occasionally tries to ‘impale’ smoke rings with her tongue. Eroticism, melancholy, loneliness, playfulness — while all this is palpable it is only hinted at. Elodie Pong’s screening of the film explains the video perfectly: “They had to be there. Nothing else. Just that. A stolen glimpse. Like a paradox — that lasted as long as his smoke”.
A signature trait of Pong’s approach is her handling of already used ‘materials’, motifs, and contents. Video footage recorded in connection with the ADN/ARN system is included in Secrets For Sale; the video Pretty.Pretty of 1998, showing young girls who, for all their innocent demeanor, are fully aware of their seductive Lolita qualities, subsequently formed the basis of Pong’s video Five Years Later. In a kind of documentary we see the two former leading actresses as grown-ups. Recordings of performances that accompanied some events, occasionally complemented by additional footage, was used by Elodie Pong in her videos These Boots … and 5 a.m.. In an process of reviving, reviewing, and reassessing, Pong’s oeuvre constantly evolves, and sometimes these changes come from within. Her videos depict moments in which what is merely incidental appears as significant and vice versa. Elodie Pong runs the whole gamut of contemporary emotions, and beneath some surfaces looking quite innocuous she discovers the depths of a silent world frequently drowned out by the noise coming from outside.
Text by Sabine Schaschl