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, June 11, 2009

Two exhibitions

Martijn Hendriks: Let’s call the whole thing off.
Edwards + Johann: Fishing in a Bathtub; Tormenting Luxury
MIC Toi Rerehiko
2 May - 20 June 2009

The two shows here in two separate galleries, are of uneven quality. One is worth visiting. The other, don’t bother.

Martijn Hendriks, a Dutch artist, has an extremely interesting ongoing project with his digitally removing every avian trace from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 masterpiece The Birds. Without the fluttering hordes visibly seen attacking Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor and others, the swirling sky now defeathered, the action becomes deliciously strange. We pay close attention to the actors and read new meanings to their anxious glances and gestures. And, as there is a large group of art lovers under thirty entirely unaware of Hitchcock’s achievements, Hendriks’ labours might surprise them.

His other project at MIC seems tongue in cheek. If not it is heavy-handed and pompous. He has used part of the 1957 Henry Fonda classic Twelve Angry Men, about jurors in a murder trial where a Puerto Rican is the accused, a film which examines personal prejudice. The climax of the drama is when one of the jurors unleashes a torrent of anti-Puerto Rican invective and the others get up from the table and move away with their backs to him. As the newly enlightened individuals declare their belief that the accused might not be guilty they acquire from Hendriks sparkling foreheads and twinkling upper arms, and radiate a newly found holiness.

Twelve Glowing Men is a bit of a one-liner. It doesn’t have the layered resonances of The Birds Without the Birds. Yet Edwards and Johann’s video work Fishing in a Bathtub: Tormenting Luxury in the front room has nothing going for it at all - though it is nicely installed. It is simply bad theatre with all those elements that make you cringe: like ludicrous (unironic) costumes that seem derived from Andrew Drummond or the Wizard of Oz; silly pantomimelike whispering and hammy facial expressions; painful filmic clichés like drawn-out slow or backwards motion. It is indulgent foolery that MIC Toi Rerehiko should not be supporting. Just junk.

You think I’m a vindictive shit? After you’ve seen Tippi Hedren check out this work for yourself and tell me I’m out of line. Show me why any adult would take it seriously. I dare you.


gnute said...

Artist Stephen Fox also made a work erasing the birds. His work was called "The Birds (edit)" (2006, digital video 03:06) - except the word "Bird" in the title has a line struck through it, I just don't know the html to do this! One online source ( reads: "Stephen Fox's lengthy homage to Hitchcock's The Birds provides a world away from soap. In scenes taken from the film, Fox obliterates every bird from the footage. Filling the negative space of each bird with other footage and slowing audio to a low groan, he creates a complex montage of absent menace. At the climax the birds attack the family, but with the birds obliterated, the people seem to be shielding and fighting a demonic, imagined force."

- Lydia Chai

John Hurrell said...

Thanks a lot Lydia. That's very interesting info. With Fox doing it first, one wonders why Hendriks bothered. Perhaps the works differ in some way hitherto unexplained?

gnute said...

Heh, I don't know, not having seen either videos myself. The only reason I know Stephen Fox's work exists is via a publication I have from 1/2 doz. project space in Sydney ( My guess is that there are so many artists in the world making all kinds of work that quite possibly Hendriks was unaware some other human being had the same idea :-)

John Hurrell said...

Well the Hendriks exhibtion was curated for MIC Toi Rerehiko by Nicole Edwards. Perhaps she should have known, or at least commented on it in the small publication. Maybe that is the explanation for the title of his show?

dt said...

hi folks,
a quick comment on this. of course these two are not the only artists to have attempted this sort of remediation job on iconic cinema classics. even if they are aware of each other's efforts, i don't see why the later effort would be any less worthy or worthwhile than the earlier. this'd seem to me to be clinging to a romantic idea of authorship that both artists have clearly left behind them. for those who are interested, the Stephen Fox work you mention here was screened as part of a special event called The Late Sessions, curated by Sydney mash-up video freaks, Soda_Jerk, which premiered at Hoyts George Street. The programme comprised the work of Australian video artists actively exploring their relationships to cinema.
dt (of Chalk Horse Gallery, Sydney, and aforementioned Half Dozen, who commissioned The Late Sessions.

John Hurrell said...

Great to get your contribution, dt. However is it really obvious these artists are rejecting the notion of authorship? I'm not sure how you can make that assumption. Even Douglas Gordon would probably claim to be the first to play Psycho over 24 hours. Romantic or not, most artists still value the idea of originality somewhere in their practice.

dt said...

hi john,
i wasn't suggesting that they're rejecting the idea of authorship altogether. of course they are still 'authors', making art works. what i think they've left behind is a notion of authorship which hinges primarily on claims to the putative originality of a given image, work or idea. (hence their ease, proceeding without creating 'original footage', and hence also, we might imagine, the value in 'bothering' to reiterate or further explore a remediation that some other artist has gotten to just before you.) this older 'originality' may sound like quite a qualified notion of authorship - and perhaps it is - but it's been the dominant sort of authoring going on for quite a while, really, and is what got ossified in the legal identity of the author under capitalism. exorcising this demon we might take to be a fundamental agenda of much appropriationist art since the 80s, and i for one welcome the initiative.