Winner of the Baloise Art Prize 2014.
Swedish artist John Skoog was awared the Baloise Art Prize at Art Basel in 2014 for his film installation “Reduit (Redoubt)” of the same year. The jury was impressed by the “calm, cinematically composed images” of his 14-minute black and white film, which, in accordance with the defining trait of his oeuvre, focused on finding “traces of people and memories in ordinary places.”(1)
“Movie Palaces Series” (2010–15), acquired by the Baloise art collection, bears close affinities to the 16mm black and white film “Shadowland,” also made in 2014, which conveys a subtle reflection on the medium of film and its American success story. Skoog filmed in places around Los Angeles that had been used as locations by Hollywood studios for scenes that were meant to take place in Afghanistan, the Sahara, or the French Alps. This is “a subtle re-enactment of the topography and filmmaking in the American West. It lingers on the iconographic imagery and atmospheric resonance of places and their geographical meaning from earlier films.”(2)
With its atmospherically-charged color images, the 26-part “Movie Palaces Series” documents the architecture of the picture palaces where, for decades, the premiers of lavish Hollywood productions were celebrated. For the most part, however, the ostentatiously historical decor of these bombastic movie theaters has not stood the test of time. Today, many of these rundown buildings are used as casinos, churches, or flea markets. In this respect, Skoog’s “Movie Palaces Series” proves to be yet another piece in the mosaic of his quest to trace people and memories in everyday places.
“Movie Palaces Series” also identifies a shift in the way that the medium of film came to be perceived. In the first half of the 20th century, people flocked in their thousands to the glittering movie palaces to indulge in the latest elaborate film production. By the 1960s, the advent of television in private homes ushered in the demise of the big-screen extravaganza, not only in America.
(1) Jury report, Baloise Art Prize 2014.
(2) John Skoog: Slow Return, Värn, exh. cat., MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna 2015, p. 188.