Review: ‘Van Gogh Alive — The Experience’

‘Van Gogh Alive’ is a ‘multimedia exhibition experience’ that offers a fresh take on the Dutch master’s work. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2018

Review: ‘Van Gogh Alive — The Experience’

DUBAI: Is this the future of touring blockbuster art exhibitions? That’s the question that springs to mind strolling through the perplexing “multimedia exhibition experience” of “Van Gogh Alive” — which runs until April 23 at Dubai Design District, presenting precisely zero original works by the Dutch master often touted as the greatest painter of all time.
Instead, viewers inhabit an immersive space — walls, floor and ceiling alike dizzyingly splashed with swirling, cropped images of Van Gogh’s works, clumsily phased together like an early Windows screensaver. In total, 3,000 different images flicker from 40 projectors, revolving in a half-hour suite of biographical chapters, set to patronizing mood muzak and punctuated with tortured quotes drawn from the great artist’s letters.
The most haunting moments morph Van Gogh’s harrowed self-portraits eerily into one another — the same deadened, listless eyes glaring out at the viewer from all angles.
The tech has been on tour since 2011, with stops already clocked in 35 cities on four continents, and in places it feels tired.
When I caught “Van Gogh Alive” in Lisbon last summer, silhouetted figures practiced artful tai-chi poses in front of the churning mass of pictures. I presume they were paid to do so, but remain uncertain, as any reaction to this bewildering “experience” was welcome: Hardened gallery goers paced the space with a studied scowl, while families sprawled out on beanbags and at least three paying guests appeared to be taking a nap.
There is, of course, a wider argument to be had about art and appropriation. Fragmenting and gutting Van Gogh’s work and intent in this manner instinctively feels sacrilegious: Should those famous sunflowers really rustle in the digital breeze? Should that windmill actually be seen to turn?
Yet watching kids frolic merrily in front of those iconic images underlines how accessible “Van Gogh Alive” makes his art, while the narrative arc offers audiences either a welcome refresher on, or an introduction to, Van Gogh’s extraordinary talent.


Film review: ‘Parkour(s)’ takes obstacle course through class conflict

The sport of parkour forms the backdrop of this Algerian film. Supplied
Updated 08 December 2019

Film review: ‘Parkour(s)’ takes obstacle course through class conflict

  • Fatma Zohra Zamoum’s “Parkour(s)” is set in a small city in Algeria
  • It screened at the recent Cairo International Film Festival

CHENNAI: The fast-paced sport of parkour — or negotiating obstacles in an urban environment by running, jumping and climbing — forms the backdrop of this Algerian film.

Fatma Zohra Zamoum’s “Parkour(s)” is set in a small city in Algeria, and it seems that the director has used the title to convey the kind of histrionics her characters indulge in. Take, for instance, Youcef (Nazim Halladja) — a sportsman playing parkour — literally cartwheeling through the urban landscape. His reckless antics also include threatening people with a gun and pleading with would-be bride Kamila (Adila Bendimered) to ditch her future husband, Khaled, (Mohamed Bounoughaz). 

The movie, which screened at the recent Cairo International Film Festival, unfolds during a day and takes us to the wedding and the assorted group of men and women gathered there. As we see these people making their way toward the occasion, we get to see that they are all motivated by different pulls and pressures.

The film unfolds during a day and takes us to a wedding and the assorted group of men and women gathered there. Supplied

Youcef is there to try to persuade Kamila from walking up the aisle. The kitchen help is set to make an extra buck. However, other characters have not been written with much conviction.

Zamoun says in a note: “The multi-character drama shows how a normal situation turns into major clashes reflecting the conflict between classes, ideas and generations in Algerian society, whose youth try to take control of their lives. But they are surrounded by those who try to handcuff them.” 

The movie is not convincing on this count. For example, how is the bride — who willingly prepares for the wedding (that was my impression, anyway) — “handcuffed?” The same can be said for other characters we encounter.

What comes across loud and clear, however, is the class difference. No clarity is lost when Khaled gives money to Youcef to buy a “decent” suit for the wedding and he is offended by Khaled’s arrogance. Youcef makes no bones about this to his friend — and perhaps he is taking his revenge when he tries to sow discord among his fellow characters. Also worthy of note is the performance by the young daughter of the kitchen help, Nedjma (Lali Mansour), who gives one of the most moving and natural sequences in “Parkour(s).”

The cinematography is nothing to rave about and Youcef’s parkour antics are rather intrusive and add little to the narrative.