When Agnieszka Kurant’s solo exhibition debuts at the SculptureCenter in Queens, New York, it will consist of a film of deleted characters, a library of nonexistent books, and a radio piece broadcasting silence. This is not as ethereal as it sounds. There will be sculpture, an audio installation, and a video starring a cinematic lineup that includes Charlotte Rampling, Abe Vigoda, and Dick Miller. The pieces reflect Kurant’s interest in the immaterial—“things that do not exist but that can produce real impact and have real political, economic, or sociological consequences,” she says—such as a rumor that triggers a stock-market crash.
Kurant’s aim is to take rumors—those of a cultural nature—and turn them into physical works of art. Her sound installation, called 103.1 MHz (title variable), 2012, compiles silent pauses from seminal speeches, producing a choppy string of ambient audio disseminated via a low-frequency radio transmission (see “Now Hear This”). For Phantom Library (2011–12), she filled a shelf with books that only exist in works of fiction. (Think Untitled, the pretentious novel by the fictitious writer Richard Tull in Martin Amis’s The Information). “Agnieszka bound empty pages with the title and author and has even gotten an ISBN number,” explains Mary Ceruti, executive director and chief curator at the SculptureCenter.
One of the more high-profile pieces in the show, which opens November 10, is The Cutaways, a video that weaves together roles that have been edited out of the final versions of well-known movies. “I am interested in phantom characters,” Kurant notes. “Characters that have been completely deleted from the final cut of feature films, leaving no apparent trace in the stories, yet strangely belonging to them.” This is where Rampling, Vigoda, and Miller come in.
All three actors have had performances cut from films: Rampling from the 1971 action flick Vanishing Point, Vigoda from Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation in 1974, and Miller from Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in 1994. In Kurant’s video, all three actors re-inhabit their deleted selves in their present-day bodies. Moreover, film editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The Godfather) collaborated on the work.
“I think the film community is interested because it’s about their history, about their process,” says Ceruti. But she thinks that the real clincher may have been Kurant’s strong research skills and infectious enthusiasm. “It’s not every young artist who can get Academy Award–winning actors to help them realize a project with almost no budget.”