The next installment of our weekly moving image presentation is Spiritus Mundi, a video by Los Angeles-based artist Julien Nguyen which was commissioned on the occasion of Nguyen’s first institutional solo exhibition, Evil in the Defense of the Good.
A description of the work and its actors published at the time of the exhibition read as follows: “Spiritus Mundi is a reenactment of a scene from the director’s cut of Oliver Stone’s 1995 biopic Nixon, in which former US President Richard Nixon and then-Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms leverage one another in a terse power struggle. What begins as a strategic negotiation of funding and rank escalates into an ominous rumination on geopolitics, hubris, mortality and corruption. Over two decades later, Nguyen’s reinterpretation sees the roles of Nixon and Helms recast with friends from his life in Los Angeles. Alaia Parhizi, a 23 year-old Swiss artist of Persian descent, plays Richard Nixon. Aidan Nelson, a 20 year-old entrepreneur and actor from San Diego, who along with Parhizi runs the art-and-music venue Wönzimer, plays Richard Helms. Austin Norman, also 20 and originally from Palm Springs, plays Nixon’s much aggrieved aide, Deputy Director of the CIA and Lieutenant General in the Marine Corps, Robert Cushman. Costumed in a distorted approximation of political dress, and set in an Orientalist office, these attractive, vampiric young men inhabit their positions through a strange and darkly humorous role-play, grappling with a history that lies just beyond the brink of comprehension.”
Julien Nguyen, Spiritus Mundi, 2018, still. HD Video. 13 min 37 sec.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Special support is provided by Council Member Carlina Rivera.