press release

Sarkis: Alive and After is the first major US exhibition to examine the new work of Paris-based artist Sarkis, bringing long overdue attention to this prominent figure of the global art scene. Organized by Hou Hanru, SFAI’s new Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs, the exhibition presents an installation of over 40 films, a suite of watercolor drawings, poetic texts, photographs, and a site-specific neon work. A public reception will take place on September 21 from 5:30 to 7:30pm. The artist will give a public lecture at SFAI on September 26 at 7:30pm, and a complementary series of rare avant-garde films, selected by the artist as influential to his work, will be screened at SFAI in October and November.

“This complex and enduring project opens up a space in which the audience can enter into a continuous dialogue with the artist, and with the fantastic world that the artist has created through his infinite dialogue with other creators.” Hou Hanru

“With Alive and After, SFAI’s galleries become a site of production, a laboratory, a workshop, a place to practice,” Hou explains. “Sarkis’ practice not only includes his own productions, but also the exchanges between himself, his works, and the audience. His work represents the oscillation between exile and freedom, cultural difference and social restructuring, which are highly significant and influential ideas in our age of globalization.”

Born in Istanbul to an Armenian family, Sarkis currently lives and works in Paris. Evolving out of his experience as an “exile,” Sarkis’ work can be seen as a meditation on the tensions between memory and space. His works are profoundly concerned with humanity, and, in the words of Hou Hanru, “His works unfold a personal universe from the contrasts between light and darkness, green and red, material and immaterial, appearance and disappearance . . .” Simultaneously, Sarkis illuminates the relationship between cinema and contemporary art. As writer/critic Érik Bullot describes, “At a time when the relationships between cinema and contemporary art are multiplying and questioning the different frontiers of artistic practice, it is enlightening to observe the delicate and violent film work of Sarkis.”

Sarkis: Alive and After will consist of four distinct components. First, Sarkis has conceived a site-specific installation of his film works. Culled from the over 100 short films he has made in the last decade, a program of 40 films will be displayed on over a dozen monitors installed on platforms in the gallery. Second, a series of photographs accompanied by poetic texts inscribed on the gallery walls will create a constellation of memory that shifts between filmic movement and static images. A special interactive space will comprise the third component of the exhibition. Surrounding Andreï Tarkovsky’s 1979 film, Stalker, a series of watercolors will record Sarkis’ efforts— aided by his exchanges with students and visitors— to reconstruct the film in a reverse timeline and meet the plot midway. Finally, Sarkis will respond to the environment of the school, gallery, and city, creating a site-specific neon work for the exhibition.

In conjunction with the exhibition, SFAI will host a series of free public film screenings in the Lecture Hall. The films, selected by Sarkis as those that have influenced his practice, include Wang Bing's rarely screened 10-hour film Tie Xi Qu: West of Tracks. The film screening dates are as follows, all screenings take place at 7:30pm unless otherwise noted: The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet (October 3); The Color of Pomegranates, Sergei Paradjanov (October 10); Ice, Robert Kramer (October 17); Stalker, Andreï Tarkovski (October 24); 1+1 (Sympathy for the Devil), Jean-Luc Godard (October 31); Tie Xi Qu: West of Tracks (Saturday & Sunday, November 4 & 5, 11am-2pm, 2:30pm-5:30pm, 7pm-10pm); The Seasons, Artavazd Pelechian (TBA). A French version of this press release will also be available from the SFAI website by September 1, 2006. An exhibition catalogue with texts by Hou Hanru, Érik Bullot, and Okwui Enwezor is forthcoming.

A prominent figure in the global art scene since the 1960s, Sarkis has enjoyed several solo exhibitions at venues including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon; Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf; CAPC, Bordeaux; and Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble; as well as participated in major international exhibitions such as Documenta VI and VII, the Shanghai, Venice, and Istanbul Biennials, and in the seminal exhibition Les Magiciens de la Terre at Centre Georges Pompidou. Alive and After will be the first major US exhibition of Sarkis’ recent work, bringing long overdue attention to this important artist. This exhibition therefore functions as both a unique, site-specific project created by Sarkis for SFAI’s Walter and McBean Galleries, and as an opportunity to rethink the notion of exhibitions.


Alive and After