The Age of Animals
DVD NTSC, Color, min
Genre: Experimental, Installation
Keywords: environment and nature, science medicine, spiritual mystical, technology
The Age of Animals (2014)... features contemporary video footage Biermann shot in the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, the Vatican, and the Bronx Zoo. However, Biermann applies manipulations to this footage, producing a complex three-dimensional illusion in which foreground and background are forever trading places. Indeed, the visual experience of this film is akin to being trapped inside an M.C. Escher painting or riding a rollercoaster after taking a hallucinogen. Yet we can still see the documentary world though these disorienting distortions. In the Museum of Natural History, we see visitors looking at taxidermic animals lost to extinction along with the skeletons and footprints of dinosaurs and other bygone species. A sign reading "What makes the Earth habitable?" spins by, implying the fact that the Earth could very well become uninhabitable. In the Vatican, we see tourists videotaping and photographing the soaring ceilings dedicated to the Creator of animals according to Christian theology. The opposition between the spaces of the natural history museum and the church is emphasized through the soundtrack. This alternates between a repeated segment of sampled choral music, silence, and a recorded interview with paleontologist Peter Ward who laments the politics surrounding the discourse on global warming and evolution as well as the misguided notion that previous mass extinctions were caused only by asteroids and not by changing temperatures. The space of the Bronx Zoo, framed by the soundtrack and the other two spaces, reads not as a space of joyful childhood discovery, but rather as the last living relics of the coming mass extinction caused by human ingenuity and greed. Despite the visual distortions, we recognize tortoises, gorillas, giraffes, birds, and so on, but they, too, are barely recognizable in that they suddenly read as the last of their kind. Whether these animals are the product of supreme Creator or evolution becomes irrelevant if they are doomed to disappear. The very title of the film "Age of Animals" implies that the age can end, that there may soon be an age without animals. This film suggests that in the political opposition between science and religion, the casualties are entire species - perhaps all of them.
As a whole, Gregg Biermann's recent work suggests a sense of the overwhelming in a historical moment in which we are disoriented visually, sonically, socially, politically, and even biologically. It reflects and refracts the sense that, even as we attempt to make sense of the contemporary world, it continues to shift, becoming a foreign and unfamiliar territory. In Biermann's work, as in contemporary life, our landmarks are constantly shifting, forcing us to find new ways of locating ourselves in a spatial and temporal situation that is ever slipping beyond our mind's grasp.
- Jaimie Baron
DVD NTSC Sale: $30 DVD (individual) $100 DVD (institutional)