(April 20, 2012 – November 30, 2013)

Forty years after Federico Fellini’s polemic film interpretation of Satyricon (1969) by the Roman writer Gaius Petronius Arbiter, AES+F revisits this classical literary work in their piece The Feast of Trimalchio (2009). This video installation is based on Cena Trimalchionis, a section in Satyricon in which the freedman Trimalchio takes centre stage. He went down in history as the epitome of opulence, luxury and unbridled pleasure. Trimalchio thus embodies Vanitas: human pleasures are finite, just like human existence itself.

AES+F’s The Feast of Trimalchio is made up of individual digital photographs taken with hundreds of models in a studio. By mounting the images behind each other a slow stiffly mannered movement of the figures is created which defines the entire atmosphere of the video. The setting – an artificial island with an imposing luxury hotel built in a style that sits somewhere between imperial and colonial architecture – is completely digitally created. Although the piece is not explicitly narrative, the viewer understands the ambiguous play of power and seduction that unfolds between the hotel guests and the hotel staff. In keeping with the Roman Saturnalia festival, in which master and slave switched roles during the solstice, AES+F’s narcissistic guests gradually become servants and the staff take on the self-glorifying role of the hotel guests.

The Feast of Trimalchio creates a seductive but at the same time repulsive artificial paradisiacal world against a backdrop of unremittent threat (tsunamis, UFOs, etc.). The artists consciously seek out this paradox: ‘The level of the ideal in our project is heightened to the level of the absurd. Our catastrophes are like Disneyland attractions. A tsunami, for example, does not result in death and destruction, a runner pursued by waves looks more like a jogger, panic resembles baroque art with falls and angles found in paintings of the period. We wanted to create a world so ideal and wonderful that it begins to border on the repulsive’.

 

 
 

AES+F

Arzamasova Tatiana – 1955, Russia
Evzovich Lev – 1958, Russia
Svyatsky Evgeny – 1957, Russia
Fridkes Vladimir – 1956, Russia

The Russian artist collective AES was set up in 1987 when the architect couple Tatiana Arzamasova and Lev Evzovich began to work permanently with graphic designer Evgeny Svyatsky. In 1995, photographer Vladimir Fridkes joined the group, which changed its name to AES+F. The manipulation of the glamorous fashion, lifestyle, film and advertising imagery that has flooded Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 is a constant theme in their oeuvre, which ranges from sculpture to photography and video art.