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Site and Simulation curated by Aria Dean
+ online Q&A
Institute of Contemporary Arts
A Minute Ago by Rachel Rose. A historic site is overlaid with reflects of trees from a camera lens
A Minute Ago, Rachel Rose. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery

This film programme brings together artists’ shorts exploring questions of place and virtuality. First presented at TIFF in 2023 and guest curated by Aria Dean, the screening features the artist’s Abattoir, U.S.A.!, concurrently on view in the ICA’s gallery as part of her exhibition Aria Dean: Abattoir, alongside four shorts by Diego Marcon, Rachel Rose, Harun Farocki, and Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson.

In Dean’s words: 

‘This programme exhibits moving image works that explore the entanglement of sites and their simulations. Specifically, these films draw out the virtual dimensions of real sites, and the real dimensions of the virtual, often in order to pinpoint political and historical fissures in reality as we understand it. 

While these films formally engage virtuality, illusion, simulation, and fiction in different ways, all share an interest in sites where the real, actual, and virtual play for the same team, so to speak. Rather than exploiting the virtual for its futurism, these works take a practical and critical approach to virtual models. Through this modelling, the artist may consider and play with a site and its contours, treating it as material and not simply as subject. What otherwise might simply be setting, architecture, or backdrop becomes a lively configuration of entities ― organic and inorganic ― to manipulate. 

These films also scratch at the politics of the virtual double including and beyond the human subject ― beyond the relatively limited threat of deepfakes ― and into a generalized sense of unreality. Extending it into architecture and landscape, this sort of doubling throws the legitimacy of the real ― and of the way power is arranged in it ― into question.’ 

The screening will be followed by an online Q&A with Aria Dean and ICA exhibition curator Andrea Nitsche-Krupp.

Courtesy of TIFF in partnership with The Vega Foundation. 


Monelle, Diego Marcon, Italy, UK 2017, 16min, Sound, No Dialogue.

Combining CGI and 35mm film, Monelle glimpses the formal structures and occupants of an abandoned Italian fascist interior in violent flashes. 

© Diego Marcon. Courtesy the Artist and Sadie Coles HQ, London 

A Minute Ago, Rachel Rose, USA 2014, 8min, English.

In a meditation on time, Rachel Rose draws together the scene of a natural disaster and the famed Philip Johnson Glass House. The two moments cross-pollinate as a blurry animation of a Johnson-like figure delivers a “tour” of the home. Modernity and disaster….  

Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery 

Abattoir, U.S.A.!, Aria Dean, USA 2023, 10min, Sound, No Dialogue.

Abattoir U.S.A.! is a survey of the interior of a slaughterhouse, rendered in Unreal Engine. The film considers the abattoir as both an allegorical structure and a literal, material site where the boundary between human, animal, and machine is produced and reproduced, and where civil society’s intimacy with death is embodied. 

Courtesy the artist, Greene Naftali, New York and Château Shatto, Los Angeles 

Serious Games II: Three Dead, Ernste Spiele II: 3 tot
, Harun Farocki, Germany 2010, 8min, Sound.

Serious Games II shows us a live-action simulation of a military operation staged in 29 Palms. It is the sole film in Harun Farocki’s video series Serious Games I-IVdedicated to the role of interactive digital simulations in the War on Terror to depart from filming soldiers’ interacting with virtual landscapes. It is a war game, but it might as well be a Hollywood movie set. 

Content advisory: violence, frightening scenes 

Courtesy HARUN FAROCKI FILMPRODUKTION and Greene Naftali, New York 

Mono Lake, Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson, USA 1968, 19min, English.

A home video and photo montage of a trip taken by American earthwork artists Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, and Nancy Holt to collect materials for Smithson’s nonsite works, Mono Lake is a sort of coda to the programme. Smithson’s nonsite is a concept that is accelerated and therefore troubled by the capacities of virtual technologies. At the film’s closing, Smithson burns a map of Nevada, the cinders of which later were incorporated into Mono Lake Nonsite (Cinders Near Black Point). 

Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson, Mono Lake [still] (1968/2004)  
Super 8mm film and Instamatic slides  
Colour, sound  
Duration: 19 minutes, 54 seconds  
© Holt/Smithson Foundation / Licensed by Artists Rights Society, New York  
Distributed by Electronic Arts Intermix, New York 

04:30 pm
Sat, 09 Mar 2024
Cinema 1

All films are ad-free and 18+ unless otherwise stated, and start with a 10 min. curated selection of trailers.

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