Acquired through the Contemporary Collectors Director's
The Art Gallery presents Allegoria Sacra by the internationally celebrated artist collective AES+F. This spectacular video work is, in essence, a digital painting which seduces and overwhelms the viewer through its visual and aural splendor.
Allegoria Sacra is inspired and named after a painting by the Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini, which is believed to represent purgatory. In purgatory all souls wait for the Last Judgment. For AES+F, the modern international airport, as a place where people are suspended in time and place, is the contemporary allegory for purgatory.
At the airport, strangers wait, united by their desire to move from one world to another. They simultaneously listen to flight announcements and watch departure boards, anticipating news of delays and departures – waiting, in a sense, for judgment. Yet despite the shared experience, everyone remains detached and self-absorbed.
AES+F apply music to their animation to intensify the prolonged sense of waiting. Compositions from Vivaldi, Handel, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Schubert and a contemporary Japanese composer Ryoji Ikeda are combined to create the affecting sound of purgatory.
AES+F exploit stereotypes throughout the work but do so to question the values of contemporary civilisation. Disconnected and self-absorbed ‘Western’ passengers are contrast with the militant solidarity between Chinese businessmen and the shared community expressed between a group of transit passengers from Darfur and Peshawar.
Signs of capitalism and the aspirations of a consumer society are overtly displayed through designer brands and in contrast to the ‘ethnic’ dress and essential belongings of people from developing nations. Significantly, the question of happiness in Allegoria Sacra remains an impossible one to solve, regardless of religious or cultural heritage represented - Christian, Muslim, Infidel, Hindu, rich, poor or dispossessed. Everyone lacks the passion of life.
The work then enters a dream sequence that flows from one protagonist to the next, with the
rational becoming increasingly illusive – in essence both mannerist and surrealist. The allegory
becomes increasingly more difficult to resolve and from this point it is evident that
Allegoria Sacra is the most conceptually rigorous of AES+F’s three works to date.
detail: AES+F, Allegoria Sacra, 2011, video still images. © AES F Courtesy Triumph Gallery, Moscow