Katarina Burin's exhibition Ambassador Suites, at Galerie Lucile Corty, invites us to examine the world of leisure, travel, and tourism. This exhibition, however, is a sharp contrast to the flashy fashion glitz of Sylvie Fleury, and far from the spectacular or the simulated, like Maurizio Cattelan's 6th Caribbean Biennial (where sponsors for the so-called Biennial were lured by the concept of site-specific works and the big names like Ofili, Orozco, Eliasson and Tillmans into sponsoring an elaborate all-expenses-paid vacation for the artists on the island of St Kitts). The works in Ambassador Suites reveal instead a sort of separation from the world of leisure either in time, place or nationality. Burin was inspired to create and curate the show after encountering "a mysterious window display at an 'Import/Export' business"; her corresponding window display at Lucile Corty is just as dodgy-looking, resembling an architectural office or a defunct travel agency, or a layering of all of the above on several overlapping screens, further distorted by the reflection of the actual street on the window pane.
In Burin's Leisure Ensembles in the ground floor gallery, found images from tourist guides are cut up, their idyllism disrupted, fragmented and made to look like modern buildings. Burin was born in Slovakia but moved to the United States at a young age--these can be seen perhaps as a recreation of a "homeland", culled from magazines, half remembered, half pieced together.
In fact the whole gallery setting is decidedly Eastern-bloc, slightly dilapidated, and featuring a bizarre setting for the video projection by Lisa Tan, National Geographic (The Other Side of the Mountain), shown in the bottom of a spiral stairwell; while facing the projection your back is to a darkened, empty, rather mysterious basement gallery. Upstairs is Josh Shaddock's Red White and Blue, a collection of all the red, white and blue flags of nations, 24 in total; beyond the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes, most of them are quite unfamiliar, and their placement in extreme proximity makes them all disquietingly blend together. Lisa Tan's Baudelaire Itinerary, a conceptual piece, draws names from Baudelaire's Review of the Salon of 1846 and creates an itinerary for a proposed journey. Lacking any visual accompaniment, this is about as dry as a travel itinerary can get, complete with a reading list of books for the plane trip.
Though curated around the concept of leisure and travel, Ambassador Suites deconstructs and fragments the notion by employing images that have no direct emotional draw, and are instead more like relics of a bygone age; the images, either appropriated or painstakingly recreated, come from particularly lusterless sources, faded magazine ads or travel brochures from the 60's or 70's, antique matchbooks, old National Geographics, historical books. In fact these images present a very removed look at tourism and escapism, one in which no one has actually gone anywhere, either content to or resigned to look through a travel guide instead.
(*Images, from top to bottom: Katarina Burin, Leisure Ensemble 3 (Mountain Retreats), 2008, mixed media, 103 x 47 x 7 cm, courtesy Galerie Lucile Corty, photo: A. Mole. Katarina Burin, Villa Rustica / Villa Urbana, 2008, pvc, cardboard, paper collages, paint, wood, dimensions variable, courtesy Galerie Lucile Corty, photo: A. Mole. Lisa Tan, National Geographic (The Other Side of the Mountain), 2008, sketch version, dvd projection, courtesy Galerie Lucile Corty, photo: A. Mole. Josh Shaddock, Red, White and Blue, 2007, 24 drapeaux, dimensions variable, courtesy Galerie Lucile Corty, photo: A. Mole.)