PEM Commissions Landmark Installation by Internationally Renowned Video Artist Candice Breitz

Via Peabody Essex Museum

PEM Commissions Landmark Installation by
Internationally Renowned Video Artist Candice Breitz


ON VIEW OCTOBER 11, 2014 - MARCH 1, 2015

SALEM, MA -- The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents its most ambitious contemporary art commission to date: Candice Breitz’s The Woods. The exhibition follows the journeys of child actors through the world’s three largest mainstream film industries: Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood. Each produces hundreds of films annually that attempt to express the dreams and desires of their audiences. The impact of such aspirational narratives and the idea of stardom has been the subject of many of Breitz’s works over the last 15 years.

“When Candice first told me she wanted to produce a work that put stardom into a global context, I immediately saw how PEM’s cultural DNA could be remixed in a very contemporary way,” says Trevor Smith, PEM’s Curator of the Present Tense. 

Breitz traveled to Los Angeles, Mumbai and Lagos over a two-year period to produce The Woods. She edited the footage back at her home base in Berlin into three immersive video installations. They explore the impact of fame on how we create, define and perform identities in a media-saturated society.

Few children who dream of an acting career achieve it, let alone negotiate a successful transition from child actor to adult star. These installations,The AuditionThe Rehearsal and The Interview, take us through rituals that actors must pass in their quest for stardom. They each run in a continuous loop, inviting you to enter at any time and to stay as long as you wish.

The Audition
Breitz invited 25 young Hollywood hopefuls to perform the rituals associated with a Hollywood audition. She worked with each actor for about 90 minutes, beginning with their “slate” — the actors’ introduction and description of their special attributes, as well as front-facing and profile poses for the camera. The children then performed a song of their choice (some wrote their own songs). Following Hollywood protocol, the young actors came with prepared monologues. Less routine was the content of the script they had been asked to learn — direct quotations from online advice offered by industry professionals to child actors and their parents. Of the three national film industries featured in The Woods, Hollywood dedicates by far the most resources to training and encouraging child actors.

The Rehearsal
India produces more feature films than any other country in the world. The six young actors featured in The Rehearsal have already experienced some degree of commercial success. The script they perform here — reflections on their lives in show business — is actually a compendium of quotes gathered from interviews with Bollywood’s most visible star, Shah Rukh Khan. In Breitz’s film, Khan figures less as a specific person than as the embodiment of Bollywood stardom, and hence the object of the children’s aspirations. Replicating the typical setting for Bollywood press interviews, Breitz worked with each child for a full day in a five-star hotel room in Mumbai.

The Interview
The two stars of The Interview are Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme, popularly known as Aki and Pawpaw. These small-statured actors, now in their 30s, gained celebrity as adult actors playing child roles in dozens of Nollywood hits. Nollywood movies are distributed primarily in public markets. These movies represent popular entertainment produced by Africans for an African market and for the African diaspora. Nollywood produces almost twice as many movies as Hollywood each year.



The Peabody Essex Museum and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne, co-commissioned The Woods. FreePort funders Jeffrey P. Beale and Fay Chandler provided generous support. Terry and Dick Albright and the East India Marine Associates of the Peabody Essex Museum provided additional support.


Candice Breitz, Still from The Audition, 2012
Shot at Independence Studio, Los Angeles, USA: September 2012
From the trilogy The Woods

Candice Breitz is the eighth artist to participate in the museum’s FreePort initiative, an invitation to contemporary artists to establish a unique dialogue with the museum and its audiences, exploring the dynamics of cultural change. Their creative expressions open conversations across disciplines critical to the evolution of a 21st-century museum. Previous artists include Susan Phillipsz, Charles Sandison and Michael Lin. Born in Johannesburg in 1972, Breitz has lived and worked in Berlin since 2002. She has participated in biennales in Johannesburg, São Paulo, Istanbul, Taipei, Kwangju, Tirana, Venice, New Orleans and Singapore. In recent years, solo exhibitions of Breitz’s work have been hosted by the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), De Appel (Amsterdam), Moderna Museet (Stockholm), Castello di Rivoli (Turin), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Standard Bank Gallery (Johannesburg) and South African National Gallery (Cape Town). She has been a tenured professor at the Braunschweig University of Art since 2007.

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) is one of the oldest and fastest growing museums in North America. At its heart is a mission to transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes and knowledge of themselves and the wider world. PEM celebrates outstanding artistic and cultural creativity through exhibitions, programming and special events that emphasize cross-cultural connections and the vital importance of creative expression. Founded in 1799, the museum’s collection is among the finest of its kind boasting superlative works from around the globe and across time –– including American art and architecture, Asian export art, photography, maritime art and history, as well as Native American, Oceanic and African art. PEM’s campus affords a varied and unique visitor experience with hands-on creativity zones, interactive opportunities, performance spaces and historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese House, a 200‐year‐old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States. HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am–5 pm and the third Thursday of every month until 9 pm. Closed Mondays (except holidays), Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. ADMISSION: Adults $18; seniors $15; students $10. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $5. Members, youth 17 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang. INFO: Call 866‐745‐1876 or visit our Web site at

Whitney Van Dyke | Manager of Public Relations | | 978-542-1828
Dinah Cardin | Press Officer / Special Projects Writer | | 978-542-1830