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Cloud Cuckoo Land
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Cloud Cuckoo Land

 
Cloud Cuckoo Land (2008) is a collaborative video and sculptural installation by Erik Moskowitz and Amanda Trager. The lead roles are played by Moskowitz and Trager with Joan Jonas, Robert Janitz, and Ronnie Bass featured in the supporting cast.

The seductive cinematography and richly layered music of the video will be shown within an environment of objects that served as a set for filming. These include a number of wall-sized semi-transparent photographic scrims that will describe a domestic interior within the gallery. The translucency of the scrims allows viewers to watch other viewers as they move between divisions, one room of the set bleeding into the next. Additional objects, with skewed proportions and unconventional relations to space, further dissolve physical boundaries. A more uncanny dissolution occurs when the characters open their mouths to speak. The timing of the footage has been altered to a dissociating effect. The actors haltingly mouth their dialogue, individual voices replaced by a unifying soundtrack sung by the artists.

The title of the piece, Cloud Cuckoo Land is taken from the Aristophanes’ play The Birds, which first put the possibility of progress (and the goal of Utopia) into doubt. The narrative encompasses a family’s move to a contemporary, progressive commune in which the central character is confronted by her own intolerance and inability to let go of the conventions of individualized life. The familiar boundaries to which she clings and the unclear spatial relations within the gallery coalesce and call into question how we envision comfort and safety both societally and psychologically.

In creating the work, these boundaries were actively tested by the artists. Trager and Moskowitz, themselves a couple, shared their home/studio with co-performer Robert Janitz during the period of time in which they developed this piece. Artifacts of this living arrangement, redolent of the mundane tensions of an unconventional “family-life” remain in the installation, functioning as a nearly hidden narrative-within-a-narrative. These artifacts of a lived experience make Cloud Cuckoo Land as authentic as it is critical.

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