Thursday, May 8, 2014
The Enchanted Pose...
Many of our visitors have been enchanted and curious about the installation by ek.1 in gallery 2 as part of The Act of Seeing exhibition. On the opening night, the artists created the installation, bringing in all of the items, turning on the lights and fans and finishing up on their concrete plinths.
We decided to share their catalogue essay with you which might answer some questions you may have. If you have already viewed the exhibition, you might want to take another look!
The Enchanted Pose
ek.1 (Katie Lousie Williams + Emma Hicks)
We begin by getting lost.
Dancer Steve Paxton (1987)1 suggests that getting lost is the first step toward finding new systems and through this we discover we are oriented again. How do we apprehend the movements of movement?
I have seen this before. What do you mean you have seen this, it is brand new. Can I start again? I am not sure if I told you this but if I had, you would know that we started out at a place called Patonga. We drove for 12 hours occasionally staring at patches of featureless ground and the flicker of a viewscreen. A series of locations for a stage set. Weaving through fences arriving everywhere and nowhere.
More rolling clouds of dust. A conversation ensues
– let’s redo the scene with the fence. Without the fence?
– With the fence. The fence is wrong. You take the fence out, you got something.
The water is dead calm. There is so much tension in my mouth. MOVING OUT A BIT we can see giant boulders standing silent like sentinels. Employing the classic rückenfigur (figure seen from behind) we stand on our fake concrete plinths, immersed in the water.
The wind now at a higher pitch - reaches a crescendo – then SILENCE. Cutting across the surface, images
simultaneously erupt as I shift between some of the most canonical and reproduced paintings in Western
art - Magritte’s La Reproduction interdite (Not to be Reproduced), Friedrich’s Der Wanderer über dem
Nebelmeer (Wanderer above a Sea of Mist) and Grant Woods American Gothic.
I drift as I am reminded of the Grant Wood inspired VHS cassette cover for the 1988 film American Gothic2 (a run of the mill cabin horror)- which I discovered as a child in my local video store Cyclops. From here I fall into Berger’s ways of seeing3 or not seeing, in the case of the Cyclops - Polyphemus.
As my synapses begin to overload I crash into Magritte’s motif, recalling La Pose enchantée (The Enchanted Pose). A painting displayed once in 1927, broken into quadrants and subsequently painted over. Two segments found again through X-ray, two still missing. The Pose shows twin female nudes leaning against fluted columns in a sparse setting. The only remaining visual record of this painting is a small black and white photograph attributed the Magritte catalogue raisonné. This painting will never be displayed; conservators would never sacrifice the images resting on top.
Recently I was emailed a copy of Werner Herzog’s letter to his cleaning lady (written by Dale Shaw) a particular passage was in response to a build up of scum on a soapdish, ‘I want you to be real in everything you do. If you cannot be real, then a semblance of reality must be maintained. A real semblance of the fake real, or “real”. 4
The cover of Art Forum in 1966 featured Ed Ruscha’s design titled ‘Surrealism Soaped and Scrubbed’5,
interesting to dedicate a whole magazine to surrealism when such a Greenbergian slant was still a dominating
influence, for Greenberg surrealism was something to be overcome, to shed. Magritte was a secret agent, a
Hitchcockian case of mistaken identity. Hitchcock directed Secret Agent6 in 1936, The plot following a
famous writer who’s death is faked. Tom Cohen discusses Hitchcock’s Secret Agent arguing the title points to a secret agency “a kind of mnemonic trace neither living nor dead, void of semantic content yet that on which all switchboard relays or translation or even visibility (reading) seem to rest.”7
Magritte’s pose exists through a staggered displacement of elements not quite real but yet not simply imaginary. A painting entombed under others trapped in a cipher. There is no all encompassing narrative that depicts where you’re going, where you are or where you were. Images are always incomplete in space and time. Like a bolt of lightning, you never know when or where it’s ever gonna strike.
We are still standing here in front of the immobile camera aspiring to but never reaching an idealized stillness (forever fading and fading out). This landscape is full of contradictions. Cutting across the frame is a sea of fences. The camera cannot penetrate. Slate, dimmed purple, emerald green, buttermilk and turquoise stretch
across the horizon. Rusty barbed wire. I vote we take a flying leap and hope for the best. You know I still
remember the uplink code from the 1987 film The Running Man 8 (18 24 61 B 17 17 4) originally a book by Stephen King published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. King’s Bachman even came complete with a “real” fake wife and a portrait featured on the back his novels. Bachman was ultimately sacrificed in 1985 with king claiming cancer of the pseudonym.
We are now caught in a pattern of repetition. Endless looping. The artist formerly known as Prince (and yet
again) known as Prince states ‘there is joy in repetition’9 of course repetition is also a form of neurosis. As the sun rises slowly but continuously toward the top of the frame and finally beyond it I feel we are approaching a threshold.
Okay, we will make her work peripherally. You lead. … We are lost somewhere en route. While this conversation is unfolding the camera man has lost interest in a dialogue with our backs. MOVING IN getting tighter we see quite clearly a patch of faded grass. Locked in a sequence of shifting additions subtractions and enhancements. This calls to mind an interview with Seth Price “Sometimes it’s good to go forward and then double back, and circle around again. To those who turned their feet around so that their tracks would confuse their pursuers: Why not walk backward?”.10
We are forever scrubbing away at the surface until be it something or nothing starts seeping through. Our image of the future is in fact inextricably linked or joined to the present. To return to Magritte perhaps it is time to take a “double look”. This dialogue is an effort to bring together the threads of a series of locations and positions, though even if these threads can be tied they will never reach a cohesive whole. We are forever in limbo, trying to find a spot to place a ladder in a void. To quote Beckett “Yes yes, we’re magicians. But let us persevere in what we have resolved, before we forget”11. As the words escape me I
think of a term coined by Tor Nørretranders, “exformation”12 (relating to explicitly discarded information) and his subsequent example of Victor Hugo’s short correspondence with his publisher that simply read “?”.
We are forever digging holes. Perhaps, like Magritte’s pose some of these threads are destined to remain forever hovering just beneath the surface.
….Well, whatever I said before, that’s the way it really happened.
REFERENCES AND NOTES:
1 Steve Paxton, “Improvisation is a word for something that can’t keep a name” in contact quarterly
Dance and Movement Journal 12.2 (Spring/Summer,1987), pp15-19.
2 American Gothic, Directed by John Hough, 1988 (89 minutes). Trimark Pictures, DVD.
3 John Berger, Ways of Seeing (Penguin Books Ltd, UK,1972).
4 Dale Shaw, “Werner Herzog’s note to his cleaning lady”, accessed at http://sabotagetimes.com/reportage/
5 Edward Ruscha “ Surrealism Soaped and Scrubbed”, Leider, Philip, editor. Artforum, volume V , number 1,
(Surrealism issue, September 1966). Here I am also referring to Amy Newman, Challenging Art: Artforum
1962-1974 (Soho Press; 1ST edition, 2003) and Sandra R. Zalman, A Vernacular Vanguard: Surrealism and
the Making of American Art History (PhD dissertation university of southern California, Proquest, 2009).
6 Secret Agent, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1936 (86 minutes). Carlton Visual Entertainment Ltd, DVD, 2003.
7 Tom Cohen, Material Events: Paul de Man and the Afterlife of Theory (University of Minnesota Press, 2001)
8 The Running Man, Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, 1987 (101 minutes).TriStar Pictures, DVD. Richard
Bachman (Stephen King), The Running Man (Signet, 1982, USA).
9 Prince, “Joy in repetition” from the album Graffiti Bridge (Paisley Park, Warner Bros, 1990).
10 Seth Price In his video lecture Redistribution, (2007-2008)
11 Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts (Grove Press; 1 edition 2011, New York).
12 Tor Nørretranders, The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size, Jonathon Sydnenham trans.
(Penguin Books, 1999).
The following film scripts have been referenced to either directly or
indirectly (accessed from http://www.script-o-rama.com)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) – screenplay by Cliff Green
Back to the Future (1985) – screenplay by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale
Dead Calm (1989) – screenplay by Terry Hayes
Alien (1979) – screenplay by Dan O’Bannon
Aliens (1986) - screenplay by James Cameron
Tootsie (1982) – screenplay by Murray Schisgal, Barry Levinson, Elaine May, Larry Gelbart and
ek.1 (Katie Lousie Williams + Emma Hicks) - v2.ek1.com.au