East Contemporary

Rudolfinum: “Compassion Fatigue is Over”

Prague, January 21 – August 8, 2021, https://www.galerierudolfinum.cz/en/

A video art exhibition organized around a theme that was not completely clear to me. “Compassion Fatigue” was still a term I understood. It means being tired of feeling empathy for others, a term firstly applied to those whose job is to do so, but indirectly applying to all of us who consume mediated images of suffering from news media. Why it should be over was not clear, as I did not notice any large scale change in society or exhibition making. Nevertheless it was a pleasant show in the spacious halls of Rudolfinum gallery. I appreciated most of the projections were large size and well set up, so audience could really enjoy them, almost like in a cinema.

Visitors were greeted by Candice Breitz´ video “Sweat” that was also used as a still on the exhibition poster. A mouth of a black female sex worker telling her story.

Next were some videos by Anna Daucikova to whom I would award the prize of the most boring video of the show.

Throughout the exhibition, small tablet-sized screens were showing the artwork titles together with messages what visitors should do. That´s somehow what screen always do, telling you what to do:

Throughout the exhibition there were also a recurrent graphic/architectural elements, which I assume was the artwork of Alexandra Vajd and Anetta Mona Chisa. Not sure about the exact meaning, but nice to have some colors. The textiles looked fine, but the paper works were crumbling and printed on cheap paper.

Haris Epaminonda´s Chimera was the highlight of the show for me, and that even though I have seen it previously at the Venice Biennial. Or maybe because I have seen it previously. It is simply speaking a masterpiece. It had the least to do with “compassion” in that empty-news-y sense of showing something that makes you obliged to feel in some way. Chimera consists simply of a sequence of moving images connected by loose association on visual and conceptual levels. It is not telling the audience anything but it is creating a space in which the viewers thoughts are allowed to float freely.

Naeem Mohaiemen´s Two Meetings and a Funeral was the most embarrassingly unpleasant video. An Indian historian walking though empty modernist architecture in Africa, explaining his personal thoughts on why they were a failed project right from the beginning. What did he know about architecture? What did he know about Africa? Based on what I heard I suspect nothing.

There were some more videos in the show, for example some Hito Steyerl videos from the 2000´s dealing with the representations of women-fighters in films etc.

The exhibition will be over soon, compassion fatigue not. The show provided a nice contemplative space for a while.

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