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Last Riot at Valle dei Templi

by Richard Elen on 20 Apr, 2012

in Art, History

Last Riot at Valle dei Templi

Situ­at­ed near the SW Sicil­ian coast is the town of Agri­gen­to, home of the so-called “Val­ley of the Tem­ples” (Valle dei Tem­pli), a ridge of land above the ancient city that is the site of a lin­ear clus­ter of (main­ly) Ancient Greek ruins, many of which are quite spec­tac­u­lar — the place is well worth a vis­it. It is a UNESCO World Her­itage site.

In addi­tion to the Greek and Byzan­tine remains, there is the Vil­la Aurea, which was home to 19th Cen­tu­ry British mil­i­tary offi­cer and archae­o­log­i­cal patron Alexan­der Hard­cas­tle, who financed, among oth­er things, the re-erec­tion of the pil­lars at the Tem­ple of Her­a­cles on the site.

Today, the Valle dei Tem­pli is not sim­ply a col­lec­tion of ancient sites: it’s also a loca­tion for mod­ern art which is dis­trib­uted among the ruins and else­where, such as in the Vil­la.

Thus it was that on a recent vis­it I encoun­tered this remark­able piece of stat­u­ary in the Vil­la Aurea gar­den, in bril­liant, shiny white mate­r­i­al show­ing a group of fash­ion­ably-dressed young peo­ple poised to kill one of their num­ber with var­i­ous weapons. What on Earth was this amaz­ing piece of work? There was no indi­ca­tion on or near the piece to indi­cate its ori­gin or sig­nif­i­cance.

After a sur­pris­ing­ly lengthy Inter­net search, I found the answer. It is a (small) part of a mul­ti­me­dia col­lec­tion of works by the Moscow-based art group “AES+F” titled Last Riot/Last Riot 2.

AES+F are named after their ini­tials: the group, found­ed in 1987, was orig­i­nal­ly AES — Tatiana Arza­maso­va, Lev Evzovich and Evge­ny Svy­atsky — but they were lat­er joined by pho­tog­ra­ph­er Vladimir Frid­kes — hence the “+F”.

Last Riot first appeared in 2007 at the Venice Bien­ni­al as a three-screen video pro­vid­ing win­dows into a high­ly detailed 3D vir­tu­al envi­ron­ment, inspired appar­ent­ly by the US Army video game “America’s Army”, cre­at­ed to encour­age young peo­ple to enlist. You can see excerpts from it here:

AES+F say about the work:
“The vir­tu­al world gen­er­at­ed by the real world of the past twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry as the organ­ism com­ing from a test-tube, expands, leav­ing its bor­ders and grasp­ing new zones, absorbs its founders and mutates in some­thing absolute­ly new. In this new world the real wars look like a game on www.americasarmy.com, and prison tor­tures appear sadis­tic exer­cis­es of mod­ern valkyr­ias. Tech­nolo­gies and mate­ri­als trans­form the arti­fi­cial envi­ron­ment and tech­niques into a fan­ta­sy land­scape of the new epos. This par­adise also is a mutat­ed world with frozen time where all past epoch the neigh­bor with the future, where inhab­i­tants lose their sex, and become clos­er to angels. The world, where any most severe, vague or erot­ic imag­i­na­tion is nat­ur­al in the fake unsteady 3D per­spec­tive. The heroes of new epos have only one iden­ti­ty, the iden­ti­ty of the rebel of last riot. The last riot, where all are fight­ing against all and against them­selves, where no dif­fer­ence exists any more between vic­tim and aggres­sor, male and female. This world cel­e­brates the end of ide­ol­o­gy, his­to­ry and eth­ic.”

In addi­tion to the video, there are series of glossy white sculp­tures of which the exam­ple at the Vil­la is one, and remark­able still images fea­tur­ing the same weaponised, brand-name-dressed young peo­ple, in a kind of super­re­al­is­tic style that some­how echoes works of the Renais­sance as much as they do CGI-cre­at­ed videogame char­ac­ters.

Here’s the stat­ue from the Vil­la in an art gallery set­ting (from the AES+F web site):

…and one of the images from the same source:

I would love to expe­ri­ence the orig­i­nal video as well as the oth­er pieces, espe­cial­ly giv­en my inter­est in vir­tu­al worlds. Kudos to the peo­ple who arrange the art exhi­bi­tions along the Valle dei Tem­pli for intro­duc­ing me — and many oth­er peo­ple I hope — to the stun­ning work of a fas­ci­nat­ing group of artists.

Vis­it the AES/AES+F web site
Last Riot on the AES+F web site

YouTube search for “Last Riot”

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