Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Powers of Horror

Christian Jankowski
Sue Crockford Gallery
Angels of Revenge
27 May - 21 June 2008

German artist, Christian Jankowski, should be well known to most enthusiasts of video art in this country. Tobias Berger put him in shows at ARTSPACE and SCAPE, and he is currently included in the Forty Years of Video Art from Germany at the St. Paul Street Gallery.

Sue Crockford represents him here. His show at her gallery features three different videos, and three large photographs connected with one of them.

Sometimes Jankowski’s videos can be long and rambling – The Holy Artwork at St Paul Street for example is about sixteen minutes, and Jankowski likes process. He likes to keep the camera running just to see what his participants come up with. Crockford’s show is good because the title work is eleven minutes, Lycan Theorized (a joke about Lacan applied to werewolf movies) is twenty-three, and Playing Frankenstein (where the artist plays chess with a Boris Karloff double) is six. You have those options.

The title work is probably the most appealing to a general audience. It is extremely funny and well edited, but Lycan Theorized is hilarious too. The shortest video is quite dull.

Angels of Revenge is from when the artist attended a horror convention in Chicago and set up his own studio nearby. He then filmed twelve participants in a costume contest on the site, each fantasizing about somebody they really hated, explaining why, and what they would like to do to them. It is all pretty corny, but it works. Funny because the participants are so ordinary, if not moronic. The vicious bastards who originally did them over you end up liking.

Lycan Theorized tells you a lot about prosthetics and gruesome special effects. However its real humour comes from actors working in a production which the artist collaborated with. Jankowski persuaded them to spout out screeds of wordy theory at the key, most gory moments in the film. Some of them struggle to elucidate the chosen texts and run out of breath as they are about to be decapitated, dismembered, or eaten. The incongruous commentaries come from various theoreticians interested in the field of horror, or violence in myth and fairytale, writers such as Barbara Creed, Henry Jenkins, or Marina Warner.

Jankowski’s photographs from Angels of Revenge are impressive. They have a nice scale and acuity and the included handwritten notes the participants wrote out, precises of their nasty, tragic stories, are artworks in their own right. They fit into the visual stereotype of ‘angry writing’, and couldn’t be more intriguing, even if they were (and they are not) carefully constructed by Jankowski himself.

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