I spent yesterday shivering through shows in Chelsea, watching girls in open toe heels teetering around, pretending that they weren’t freezing or falling for their devotion to Fashion Week.
I saw 8 shows in Chelsea. Only 2 were good. Tracey Moffatt’s Other video piece (Tyler Rollins) is the final work in her Hollywood-inspired video series of remixes. Of course in the art world they are called experimental video montages, a category I can only imagine dissassociates them from current DIY practices in online communities, thus making them more profitable. But regardless of the name, in the seven minute piece, Hollywood movies are cut up and reassembled to illustrate the cinematic history of exotification of the other. She starts appropriately enough, with white colonizers landing on the shores of Africa, met for the first time by “savage natives” dancing. I know this is said about all supercut videos, but once lined up side by side, it’s amazing to see how many films use this exact. same. image. White men stomping through the waves, landing upon the shore of a beautiful beach. Then we move on to white men reaching out to touch the lips of a young Asian woman and then a white woman gazing longingly at the strapping (and shirtless) body of a ‘native’ boy. The clips reveal how hilariously artificial the construction of ‘other’ is. Everything not white or Western is ‘other’, and therefor exotic and different.
Not so hilarious is that to be exotic (or even ‘different’) is to be consumed and conquered: like an exotic dish or a tropical rain forest. This very old school colonial idea is soldifidied by Hollywood movies old and new, as Moffatt illustrates, in case you need to see it to believe it. Throughout the seven minute piece she captures the creepy hypersexualization, caught only in dramatic glances and longing looks, sometimes between much older colonial men and younger native women in The King and I and Out of Africa, among many, many others.
But the remaining two minutes are dedicated to giving into the temptation of the other through copulation. The source materials are updated and Moffatt now relies on pop-culture texts such as The L Word, Six Feet Under, Sex and the City and Showgirls, among others, however she chooses her clips intentionally here. Only same sex and black male/white female interracial coupling scenes are included and then are inter-cut with clips of the earth shattering, the universe imploding and the world ending. That’s perhaps the double standard of “the other”: when two “others” get together, the laws of nature get all wacked and the world ends. So this should be a lesson to all of us: according to the movies, the absence of a white male makes the world end.
On a completely different note, Christian Marclay’s Clock (Paula Cooper Gallery) is a 24-hour supercut through time. Literally. The piece, a “24-hour valentine to the movies”, samples Hollywood and international films from throughout the 21st century and adheres to real time. For example, when the clock in the clip strikes 2, it’s really 2:00 PM (!!!), same at 2 AM, although there’s no way in hell I’d plan to sit though it that long (the sofas had limited lumbar support, among other reasons). Thousands of films were sampled and the sound leading you from clip to clip is mixed extremely well. Most of the clips are united by match-on-action editing and in terms of source footage, The Twilight Zone seemed to be a staple (although someone had to point this out to me). There were a few recognizable sources: The British version of The Office, The Simpsons and Gone With the Wind.
However, the real point here is Marclay’s stamina and consistency. Where Moffatt’s thesis was critical analysis of the way we construct notions of ‘other’ in 7 minutes, Marclay’s point is “look what I can do for 24 hours!”. In the two years and six assistants it took to go through hundreds of thousands of films and TV series seeking time-related sequences, Marclay managed to create the supercut of all supercuts that, in itself, is it’s own clock. This is perhaps the best feature of the piece. It deconstructs the films to create something entirely new in both form and function.
Roberta Smith said “it is like a history of film for our ADD times, or the greatest movie trailer ever made, as well as the ultimate work of appropriation art, a genre that owes so much to the movies.” I think it’s pretty great, too, Roberta, but the fanboy genius trope you use is a bit nauseating. In an attempt to dig for deeper meaning, I counted 50 different sources in two minutes. From 1:58-2:00 PM there were 10 women, 2 of which were in scenes without men. No judgment on Marclay here: clearly this is a reflection of the amount of films that feature men.
While neither Marclay or Moffatt are American, it’s interesting to note the timing of their NY Times reviews. Moffatt’s NY Times review was printed within 24 hours of her show’s closing but thankfully, the show found a home at Tyler Rollins and is now up until February 26th. Marclay’s NYTimes review (linked above) was published on February 3rd with ample time to get to the gallery. His show closes on Feb. 19th. Just sayin’.