The Unity of All Things
What form(s) would an actual contemporary work of visual art assume? Alexander Carver and Daniel Schmidt (who, with Gabriel Abrantes, made the mid-length Palaces of Pity) attempt to answer this question with their bizarre debut feature, a globe-trotting multilingual, queer science-fiction satire on Otherness, set against the background of particle collider research (some of the film was shot inside CERN, other material in China, with film stock having to have been surreptitiously smuggled out). In innumerable senses—chiefly among them visually (shot on 16mm) and narratively (that one can’t even begin to summarize in this space, but links to Schmidt’s earlier work can be drawn)—The Unity of All Things, which mines the borders of history and subjectivity, literally and figuratively, is unlike any other work being presented this year, or any year. It takes on the issue of instability whole hog—the instability of gender, the nuclear family, and even the image (shot on old Fuji stock, the film at times appears to dissolve before our eyes). Carver and Schmidt’s daring proposition takes off from Frederic Jameson’s notion of Utopian form as “a representational mediation on radical difference, radical otherness, and on the systemic nature of the social totality, to the point where one cannot imagine any fundamental change in our social existence which has not first thrown off Utopian visions like so many sparks from a comet.” Where it ends is up to the viewer.