All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

June 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

With a title originating from The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is a visual art project by American-born, Amsterdam-based artist, Mark Boulos which seeks to address Marx’s notion of ‘commodity fetishism…where commodities seem to possess metaphysical qualities rather than material…(thereby) obscuring the labour relations which produce and distribute them’.

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (film still) by Mark Boulos 2008

Boulos decided to focus on one of the most important commodities, oil and its ‘two end points, production and distribution’. He travelled to Nigeria and the Niger Delta, one of the most important oil producing regions on the continent of Africa and filmed Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). The Niger Delta is noted for its extreme poverty in spite of the region’s oil wealth and the miltant group seeks to redistribute that available wealth. Subsequently, Boulos then filmed at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, one of the largest commodity exchanges in the world and which trades in commodities including oil futures.

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (film still) by Mark Boulos 2008

First shown in 2008, it has been widely presented including the 2010 Berlin Biennale amongst others and is presently installed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In this interview, from 2008, with the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Boulos states how the majority of his work critically addresses ‘the relationship between ideas and material reality’.

The project takes the form of a two-screen installation, facing each other, the viewer is placed in between. Unable to fully view or engage with either film simultaneously, the viewer is required to make ongoing and repeated decisions in terms of a commitment regarding which way to look. Through its presentational strategy, the project appears to ceaselessly confront, not only those portrayed on the two screens, but those who perhaps find themselves in the middle.

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