A tall, gangly redhead wearing ice-blue contact lenses is at an Occupy Wall Street rally. “I’m here demonstrating for the people,” he says jubilantly, holding aloft a banana peel. Then, suddenly, his mood shifts, and he looks shaken. “The problem is, I don’t know if I’m the 1 percent or the 99 percent. I was never any good at math.” He snaps out of it and begins dancing with a nearby group of protestors. Seconds later, he points excitedly at a Fidel Castro impersonator whom he mistakes for the genuine article, and dashes up to him. “Habla Español?”
The Occupy rally is but one stop on the madcap romp through some 50 New York City locations—the Apple Store, Nathan’s hot dog eating contest, a Chelsea gallery opening, Balthazar—that constitutes Swiss-born artist Olaf Breuning’s new film, Home 3: Homage to New York, set to premiere at the Swiss Institute on September 4. Like its predecessors in the series, Home 1 and Home 2, which were set in far-flung locales like Machu Picchu, Paris, Ghana and Tokyo, this one stars the artist’s good friend Brian Kerstetter as a loony tourist. But the new film brings Mr. Breuning closer to the place that, for the past 10 years, he’s actually called home.
“It’s my homage to New York,” the artist said a few weeks ago, sitting on one of the red molded plastic seats of a booth, originally from a pizzeria he used in a shoot, that he’s plopped down in a grassy field on his 10-acre property upstate. His artistic reputation may be that of a rollicking prankster—he’s made a piece involving people in monkey suits, another with people in Viking costumes and another in which the Easter Island sculptures were turned into Easter bunnies—but in person Mr. Breuning is soft-spoken and serious.
In his studio, he cued up another scene from the new film. “This is kind of primitive,” he said, as Mr. Kerstetter romped in a stretch Hummer limo with two half-naked blonde strippers as a male midget stripper looked on. Later, Mr. Kerstetter puts on an “Angry Bird” costume, has a steak at Balthazar, runs into some women on the street and begins dancing with them in a primal, sexual fashion.
In its antic editing and non-linear narrative, Home 3 was partly inspired by the films of a younger artist, Ryan Trecartin. “When I saw [them], I said, ‘Fuck, yes. That’s what I should do,’” Mr. Breuning said. He has his quibbles with Mr. Trecartin’s films, but their responsiveness to their cultural moment got him. “To be right in the time—he hit the nail with a time-spirit I liked.”
But the more significant influence on Home 3 reaches further into the past. Whereas the first two Homes were self-funded, to the tune of $30,000 to $40,000 each, Home 3 was financed by a grant from the Metamatic Research Initiative, an organization set up in 2009 by two Dutch collectors who wanted to preserve the legacy of Swiss-French artist Jean Tinguely, best known for his own Homage to New York, an enormous, Rube Goldberg-like kinetic sculpture presented at the Museum of Modern Art in 1960. With spinning wheels, spindles and upturned pots spitting flame and puffs of smoke, it was designed to self-destruct.
Home 3 is an update of the Tinguely in more ways than one. Tinguely’s homage commented on the industrial age through the use of industrial materials; Mr. Breuning’s Home films use the internet to send up the very erratic, high-speed, obsessive culture the internet has produced. He began conceiving the Home series around 2001. “At that time,” he said, “people started to seem obviously addicted to virtual worlds.” All three films began with web-trolling, but for Home 3, instead of Googling tribal rituals, Messrs. Breuning and Kerstetter scoured the New York arts calendar for events with, as Mr. Kerstetter put it, the “most comic potential.”
And while they are filled with the sophomoric humor that is a staple of Mr. Breuning’s art—they have been compared to Jackass—the Home films also share the sense of alienation that characterized Tinguely’s sensibility. “In Tinguely’s The End of the World II,” said Metamatic Research Initiative director Siebe Tettero, referring to a piece that successfully self-destructed in Las Vegas in 1962, “he brought a very sharp, cloaked message about how the world really wasn’t as funny as we all think. That’s what Olaf does as well.”
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