I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen)
30th January – 3rd March 2018
Anna Schwartz Gallery
I’m Your Man (A Portrait of Leonard Cohen), 2017 by acclaimed South African artist Candice Breitz is her first exhibition at Anna Schwartz Gallery Melbourne and follows Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon), 2006, which was presented in Sydney, 2013.
This multi-channel video installation brings together a community of ardent Leonard Cohen fans — each of whom has cherished Cohen’s music for over half a century — to pay posthumous tribute to the late legend. Each of the eighteen individuals featured was offered the opportunity to perform and record his own version of Cohen’s magnificent comeback album, I’m Your Man (1988), in a professional recording studio in old Montréal. At Breitz’s invitation, the album’s backing vocals have been sumptuously re-interpreted by the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue Choir, an all-male choir representing the Westmount congregation that Cohen belonged to all his life. Originally commissioned by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Breitz’s I’m Your Man is a tender farewell to a recently lost poet and musician, as well as a poignant celebration of late masculinity.
The work expands Breitz’s ongoing anthropology of the fan. Earlier works in this series have included Legend (A Portrait of Bob Marley), shot in Jamaica in 2005; King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson) and Queen (A Portrait of Madonna), shot respectively in Berlin and Milan during 2005; and Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon), shot in Newcastle in 2006. Although these multi-channel portraits mimic the flow and duration of the original albums that they take as their templates, they specifically exclude the auratic voices and familiar musical arrangements of the original albums, such that the musical icon ultimately remains present only through the a cappella voices of a devout amateur collective.
Candice Breitz (born in Johannesburg, 1972) is a Berlin-based artist whose moving image installations have been shown internationally. Throughout her career, she has explored the dynamics by means of which an individual becomes him or herself in relation to a larger community, be that the immediate community that one encounters in family, or the real and imagined communities that are shaped not only by questions of national belonging, race, gender and religion, but also by the increasingly undeniable influence of mainstream media such as television, cinema and other popular culture. Most recently, Breitz’s work has focused on the conditions under which empathy is produced, reflecting on a media-saturated global culture in which strong identification with fictional characters and celebrity figures runs parallel to widespread indifference to the plight of those facing real world adversity.
Breitz represented South Africa at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017). Breitz’s Venice Biennale piece, Love Story, 2016 was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria in partnership with Outset Germany and will be exhibited as Wilson Must Go at the NGV Triennial (15 December 2017 – 15 April 2018). In the past, Breitz has participated in biennales in Johannesburg (1997), Sao Paulo (1998), Istanbul (1999), Taipei (2000), Kwangju (2000), Tirana (2001), Venice (2005), New Orleans (2008), Goteborg (2003 + 2009), Singapore (2011) and Dakar (2014). Her work has been featured at the Sundance Film Festival (New Frontier, 2009) and the Toronto International Film Festival (David Cronenberg: Transformation, 2013).
Works by Breitz have been acquired by museums including the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (both in New York), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebæk), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus (Munich), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), FNAC / Fonds national d’art contemporain (France), Castello di Rivoli (Turin), Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg), M+ / Museum of Visual Culture (Hong Kong), National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), Milwaukee Art Museum, Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, MUDAM / Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (Luxembourg), MUSAC / Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (León, Spain), Kunstmuseum Lichtenstein (Vaduz), MONA / Museum of Old and New Art (Tasmania), QAGGOMA / Queensland Art Gallery (Brisbane), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and MAXXI / Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo (Rome).