Shahryar Nashat, Palais de Tokyo

Shahryar Nashat’s film Hustle in Hand, 2014, is the centerpiece of this exhibition, which also presents three other videos and four glass and marble sculptures and celebrates his winning the 2013 Prix Lafayette. The work begins with a woman greedily eating chicken with her hands and shifts to the rustling of a grease-stained paper bag dissolving into an image of a machine counting out a fat stack of hundred-Euro notes. The film then moves through close-ups of a man’s bloody forearm gash, the back of someone’s neck, fingers raking through hair, a couple exchanging an overcoat for a folded envelope with cash inside, and a schizophrenic voice narrating a museum visit, in all of which each actor’s face is cut out of the frame. Similar fashion and gestures indicate that the same woman from the first shot has her appetite sated once more, this time by a green geometric form resembling an apple. Throughout the fast-paced film, these symbols and characters resurface in disguise and disappear without warning.

The film’s crisp, deadpan visuals are echoed by its palpable sound design, including the nervous voice-over, while its tight cropping eliminates any context or background, withholding any satisfying degree of resolution or identification. A psychological thriller dominated by undisclosed motives and dead-end narratives, it folds back to a version of the beginning when the woman begins counting cash. The terse sensuality evoked by fragmented close-ups together with the actors’ intimate yet anonymous disclosures leaves the screen’s images as well as the viewer without explanation or defense.


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