Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago – Chicago (USA)

Aria Dean’s solo exhibition at the Renaissance Society Abattoir U.S.A.! consists of a newly commissioned film of the same title.

Abattoir U.S.A.! surveys the interior of an empty slaughterhouse. The slaughterhouse is animated using Unreal Engine, a 3D computer graphics tool used to create real-time environments for a wide range of platforms. In Dean’s film, the viewer follows a linear path through an impossible architecture—a seamless combination of 19th, 20th, and 21st century design elements and non-Euclidean spaces rather than a direct model of an existing building. The film is accompanied by an immersive 8-channel score by composer Evan Zierk, which weaves together field recordings, samples, melodies written by Zierk and Dean, and algorithmically generated sequences. Influenced by Romantic-era classical composition and Hollywood melodrama, this multidimensional score plays a vital role in developing the film’s affective landscape, and its experimentation with the construction and limitations of narrative. Dean significantly altered the idiosyncratic architecture of the Renaissance Society to create the film’s viewing context. Laying a rubber floor on the ground, building side walls that echo the cattle’s path in a slaughterhouse and adding a steel door, the space becomes an eerie reflection of what’s on screen.

Dean was initially inspired by philosophers Georges Bataille and Frank Wilderson, each of whom address the slaughterhouse in their writings—whether as a metaphor or paradigm–as crucial to the constitution of civil society. Abattoir U.S.A.!, also builds on Dean’s own research into the slaughterhouse and industrial architecture, and the ways they reveal modernism’s intimacy with death on conceptual, political, and material levels. The film ruminates on this through the slaughterhouse’s presence as both an allegorical structure and a literal place where the boundary between human animal and machine is produced and reproduced. As it takes the slaughterhouse as its subject and projects its forms into a virtual space, Abattoir U.S.A.! ultimately explores how meaning is produced through moving images, working across material, symbolic, and technological registers.

Public program: Tuesday, March 28, 6pm CT
In an online conversation, Aria Dean joins Michael Connor, Co-Executive Director of Rhizome, and Filip Kostic, one of her collaborators on Abattoir, U.S.A.! to discuss formal and technical aspects of her new film and larger questions related to virtuality and cinema.