Saskia Olde Wolbers

Saskia Olde Wolbers takes cases of self-deception as the starting points for her painstakingly handcrafted videos, which are often set in spaces that feel both futuristic and oddly archaeological. The resulting works have a deeply seductive, meditative atmosphere and pacing to them, which Olde Wolbers helps to set with a hypnotic narrative voiceover that unfolds her strange tales. Floating through vacant hospital rooms, movie theaters, misty jungles or an underwater television studio, we are entranced by worlds whose artifice is as tenuous and well-crafted as the accompanying delusions related by their narrators.

This last setting, beneath an imagined reservoir to be created by the Three Gorges Dam, is the location of Kilowatt Dynasty. The work, set in the future tense, is narrated by a yet-to-be conceived child, whose father will be an environmental activist, and whose mother will be the host of a television shopping show broadcasting from this submarine lair. A circular, dubious tale of hostage-taking and confusion ensues, while the camera lolls through a gorgeous, syrupy, and faintly menacing landscape. As with most of Olde Wolbers’ other works, Kilowatt Dynasty combines plangent romance with a dulled brand of horror.

The video’s narrator speaks about “the inverted dream syndrome,” a symptom apparently common to astronauts, “when the spaces and events in their dreams will look more real than the everyday dark nothingness of outer space.” Reality is inverted and surrendered to fantasy, a theme consistent in Olde Wolbers’ work and especially relevant for the High Line. The dream world where we find ourselves is too beautiful to provoke suspicion; as it reveals its fiction, we cling harder to it, desperately steadfast in our belief.

Video stills from Kilowatt Dynasty, 2000