Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Aernout Mik (Dutch, b. 1962)

Refraction, 2005

Color video installation

Dimensions variable

Commissioned by the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Aernout Mik is internationally recognized for video works that present groups of people responding to or involved in traumatic, catastrophic, or chaotic situations. He projects his videos within rigorously conceived and spatially disorienting wall structures that give them a sculptural and architectural presence.

Refraction was shot on a road in rural Romania and depicts the aftermath of a bus accident. A roving camera shifts between bird’s-eye and ground-level perspectives and makes its way through the emergency crew, police, and other individuals attending to various details of sorting and cleaning up the situation. One eventually becomes aware that victims of the crash are disturbingly absent. The silence of the video creates an unnatural sense of calm and serenity that is made all the more uncanny by the herds of sheep and pigs that occasionally intermingle with the rescue workers and other people on the scene.

Additionally, Refraction’s slightly angled projection wall inspires a physical sense of uneasiness that exaggerates the unsettling visual and psychological experience of the video’s content. Mik’s fictional evocation of a violently tragic scene is thus complicated by the absence of any casualties, the unnerving silence of the video, and the architectural irregularity of the structure in which we see the work, embodying the sense of displacement and confusion that increasingly defines the constant flux of everyday life.