The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University presents the sixth installment of Rose Video, showcasing a new acquisition to the museum's collection, Tommy Hartung's The Bible. A captivating patchwork of vivid, glittering stop-action animation and gritty found footage, Hartung's video unfolds to present an immersive, 48-minute landscape that is by turns both harrowing and spiritual. On view through June 7, the exhibition is free and open to the public.
According to Christopher Bedford, Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose and curator of the exhibition, “In the few short months since Tommy Hartung (b. 1979) debuted The Bible in the fall 2014 at the New York gallery On Stellar Rays, the idea that the video is a contemporary interpretation of the Old Testament has become a rapid orthodoxy, likely because the work is too daunting to approach without a sound bite on which to hang one’s hat. Whether or not this expansive claim truly captures Hartung’s intentions, the theory offers a suggestive thread by which to follow the video’s unruly progress and ask how this could be true, and, if so, what pertinence this might have for a viewer in the 21st century.”
“Neither synopsis nor ekphrasis are possible in the case of The Bible,“ continues Bedford. “One could agonize for hours over a description of a 10-second passage and still come up with only the most woefully inadequate explanation; to characterize Hartung’s aspirations as interpretive in any conventional sense is a stretch. One could say, however, that the video’s often-oblique relationship to its purported origin text becomes apparent in various, sly senses: through analogy, anecdote, allegory, and even abstraction. The leap of imagination (or faith) required to discern these points of connection may be considerable, but the surprising consequence is a vivid world in which an ancient text is made to live with us in the social and political present, often very uncomfortably. If, as we hear in the video’s opening minutes, ‘ordinary thought is not very subtle; it’s very coarse and a lot of things slip right through,’ The Bible is Tommy Hartung’s wild and unruly call for a much finer net, and it is very persuasive.”
About the artist
Exploring the didactic potential of the moving image, Tommy Hartung’s videos analyze the creation and dissemination of cultural narratives through entertainment. Often taking the major themes of modernism as his subject matter, his work has addressed colonial expansion and exploration, evolution, conquest, and innovation. Drawing upon a diverse range of sources, including BBC documentaries, Anna Karenina, the Gnostic gospels, and the 1967 classic coming-of-age novel The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, Hartung experiments with the history of film and video and the conventions of narrative, fragmenting and deconstructing his source material.
Tommy Hartung received his MFA from the Columbia University in 2006 and his BFA from SUNY Purchase in 2004. Hartung’s work will be featured in Hammer Projects: The Is the End, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (2015.) Recent exhibitions include The Bible, On Stellar Rays, New York, NY (2014); Tommy Hartung, Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel (2013); Utopia Parkway, Xavier Hufkens, Brussels, Belgium (2013); Tommy Hartung & Uri Aran, White Flag Projects, St Louis, MO (2012); Anna, On Stellar Rays, New York, NY (2011); Greater New York, MoMA/PS1, Queens, NY (2010); Reconstruction #1, On Stellar Rays, New York, NY (2010); Impossible Vacation, White Flag Projects, St Louis, MO (2010); The Ascent of Man, On Stellar Rays, New York, NY (2009); The Pipe and the Flow, Galería Espacio Mínimo, Madrid, Spain (2009); SCREEN, 8 Seymor Place, London, UK (2009); Queens International 4, Queens Museum of Art (2008); Moti Hasson Gallery, New York, NY (2008); Gresham’s Ghost, New York, NY (2008); White Box, New York, NY (2007); and screenings at The Rotterdam Film Festival (2011), Anthology Film Archives, New York (2008), CRG Gallery, New York (2007), and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York (2007).
His work is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), The Rose Art Museum (Waltham, MA), and The Dimitris Daskalopoulos Art Collection (Athens, Greece).
All images: Rose Art Museum. Tommy Hartung, The Bible, 2014. HD Video (color, sound), 48 minutes. Courtesy On Stellar Rays & the artist.