Artist Tala Madani Enters the Theatre of Our Minds

In a series of Frieze Film screenings at Frieze Los Angeles, dark impulse triumphs in Madani’s animations

BY Jennifer Piejko in Frieze Week Magazine | 18 FEB 19

Tala Madani’s men seem to bring out the worst in each other. When they get together in her paintings and films, they reveal a juvenile sensibility of perversion, or hazing – shaming, alienating, or deceiving each other into entering or creating humiliating or destructive scenarios for themselves. Though generally nondescript, their varying stages of male pattern baldness, paunch, and the occasional moustache disclose their middle age, even in the expressive brushstrokes of her animations. They are feral hybrid creatures crawling and meowing in the alley in Cats and Cat Men (all works 2018); they form a menacing little mob in The Crowd – screened as part of the artist’s compilation ‘The Audience’ at Frieze Los Angeles.

While most of these animations clock in at about a minute long, the comparatively epic Mr. Time, however, subjects us to over seven minutes of the little, menial miseries we impose on ourselves: if Madani’s other films project the visualizations of her men’s frontal lobes – their selfish, darkly indulgent sexual impulses ascend over stabler, nuanced emotional expressions; problem solving; and communication – Mr. Time illustrates the power of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the segment of the brain controlling doubt and belief.

Four little men watch something like the little theatre of our minds, the one screening snippets of our day. We are director, actor, editor, and audience: viewing and reviewing footage from the day, letting it play out as it did, as it could have, or as it should have. A man smoothly moves up and down the three sets of escalators. A gang of identical men emerge at the top of the stairs, and start to push, chase, or trip our star. He tumbles and falls, losing a limb here and there, which travels up or down a few stairs ahead of him. He literally starts to fall apart. His decapitation is the last straw for the gang; having achieved their mission, they exit the scene. The front-row audience looks on, finishing off their popcorn. His own doubts have literally destroyed him, so he can finally fall into a deep sleep. The movie is over, and the screen goes black.

Tala Madani’s ‘The Audience’ (2018) screened at Frieze Los Angeles on 15 and 17 February 2019. Frieze Film was curated by Ali Subotnick. For more information regarding the fair’s programme, click here.

Main image: Tala Madani, Over Head Projection (Digger), 2018, film still. Courtesy: the artist

Jennifer Piejko is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles.