Roee Rosen, Out / The Death of Cattelan

Preview 16 November 2011
17 November 2011– 28 January 2012
Critical text by Antonio Somaini

Galleria Riccardo Crespi presents Out / The Death of Cattelan, the first solo exhibition in Italy of the Israeli-American artist Roee Rosen.

Roee Rosen is an artist, film director and writer. A man of extraordinary culture, he makes masterly use of intellectual provocation in his work, in part by assuming morally ambiguous positions and paradoxical points of view. Sexuality intertwined with politics, the question of Israel and an attentive observation of historical and social dynamics pervade his work, which is infused with irony and a vitriolic criticality.

Out (Tse), Rosen’s film from 2010, won the best medium-length film award in the Horizons section at the 67th Venice Film Festival, as well as the ARTE award for best European Short Film at the International Short Film Festival in Oberhausen. It is presently nominated for the European Academy award.

The film is a hybrid between a documentary, fiction film echoing a particular genre of horror film, an erotic performance and a political reflection.

In the film’s central scene – not acted but actually performed by two women whose real-life preferences include elements of BDSM (Bondage-Domination-Sadism-Masochism) – sadomasochist thrashing is turned into an exorcism: the painful blows meted out by the Dom cause the sub to spew out quotes from Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, renowned as one of the most extreme right-wing politicians in the country.

The preceding interview with the two participants at first seems to be a straightforward documentary about their experiences on the Israeli BDSM  scene, but soon turns into an exposition of the work’s narrative premise, that one of the women is possessed by Lieberman, while the other may use her sexual predilection to serve as an exorcist. The final musical scene is a song set to the words of the Russian poet Sergei Esenin’s ‘Letter to Mother’. Filmed in a single shot, the song not only elevates and complicates the emotional echo of what went before, but is also a direct, if warped, homage to the last scene of another film that explores hybridism, extreme sexuality and politics: Dusan Makavejev’s WR, Mysteries of the Organism.

In The Death of Cattelan, 2011, a series of 16 mixed media collages, from which an edition of facsimile copies has been produced, Roee Rosen obliges the viewer to decode a narration hidden through 16 pages taken from different sources – from fairytale books to internet news sites and advertisements, By circling some of the letters, the viewer can simultaneously read the original texts, but also a story. The hidden narration unveils the circumstances of the death of Maurizio Cattelan as well as the account of the death of a brilliant art consultant by the writer - her husband. The textual hybrid is also a visual one, replete with vignettes connoting not only mediaval illuminated manuscripts, children illustrations and erotic motifs, but also the obsessive scribbles of a conspiratorial mind, suspecting a possible ploy behind the mysterious circumstances of the tragedy of his wife and that of Cattelan. An ambiguous investigation of the concept of truth.

The theme that Rosen is exploring between the lines of his artistic scenario is death, understood both in the private, physical sense, and as a place in the past, as memory and history but more importantly: as a speculative, dynamic affair. Death in Rosen’s work is alive and kicking.

The heart of Roee Rosen’s action lies in way he mixes visual art, literature and cinema to produce complex narrations somewhere between reality and make-believe, risky and provocative mystifications.