February 6 – April 11, 2010
The work of Candice Breitz, who was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1972, is consistent and yet always provides new surprises. Breitz began with collage-like photographs (Rainbow Series, 1996) before she dedicated herself to making moving pictures from the late 1990s on. In 2005 her first big break came at the Venice Biennale with her video installation Mother + Father, a series of stereotypical scenes which she edited into a portrait of the Hollywood version of the role of parents. In her characteristic method of montage and collage she takes both new footage and material from familiar films, modifying them digitally by restructuring, shaping, and editing them according to her own script. Her technically sophisticated and thematically complex video pieces examine the narrative structures of Hollywood cinema, the interrelationships between fans and their idols, and the position of the individual in our media-infused faceless society.
In Him (1968–2008) the artist montages together a conversation between 23 Jack Nicholsons extracted from films made over a period of 40 years. This assembly of film fragments creates a schizophrenic, kaleidoscopic set of interactions between the multiple Jacks. While the male characters in Him narcissistically struggle with issues of self-definition and sexual performance, the self-worth of the female characters in Her, a dialogue between 28 Meryl Streeps, is largely inflected through the relationships to the men in their lives.
In her complex video installations – composed of many screens often arranged as a solid wall – Candice Breitz examines the mainstream effect of pop culture in terms of mythos, idol, projection, and identity. Her depictions of pop music fans alternately confirm and mock set stereotypes and embrace both social conventions and the creative potential of expressing one’s own identity in today’s digital society.
The Kunsthaus Bregenz will be presenting the artist’s most well-known large-format video installations as well as several new pieces which have never been shown in Europe before. The premiere of the video installation
New York, New York, 2009, which was created especially for the exhibition as a co-production of Performa, New York, and the Kunsthaus Bregenz, will provide a special highlight.
New York, New York is based on the recording of the eponymous first-ever live performance by the artist. On November 12 and 13, 2009, Candice Breitz presented two evenings of improvised performances in the Abrons Arts Center, New York, featuring two nearly identical casts composed of four pairs of identical twins – with each pair of twins split into two groups of four actors each. The performances were based on intensive “character development sessions” that Breitz held with each pair of twins separately to develop a single character that each played in separate casts and improvisations in which the characters confront their fictional alter egos.
Breitz produced the exact same conditions for both completely different performances, using the same characters, the same-looking actors or actresses, and the same set design. With New York, New York Breitz moves the theme of probing sameness and difference that has been central to her video-based work (most recently in Factum) into the space of live performance and brings her interest in what she has called ‘the scripted life’ together with an ongoing reflection on the fragile condition of individuality.
The live performances were filmed under the direction of Candice Breitz and Scott Macaulay. A centrally positioned and locked-down camera was used to capture each improvisation as a single seamless take. New York, New York will be shown at the Kunsthaus Bregenz in a two-part video installation. The first part consists of four short films documenting the character development sessions. The second part of the installation documents the live performance and consists of two cinematically-scaled images projected alongside each other in a Rorschach-test-like constellation: the image projected on the left will be a carefully filmed documentation of the first half of each live performance, while the projected image on the right will be framed in the same way and will document the second half of each live performance, directly juxtaposing the premise and outcome of the piece.
The Kunsthaus Bregenz will also be showing the video installations Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon), 2006, Him, 1968–2008, and Her, 1978–2008, and parts of the artist’s new series Factum, 2009.
Factum, which is the point of departure for Breitz’s live performance New York, New York, deals with identity in a society that strongly emphasizes and celebrates the uniqueness of the individual. Breitz conducted long, indepth interviews with several pairs of identical twins on camera during the summer of 2009. Named after a pair of paintings by Robert Rauschenberg, Factum I and Factum II (both 1957), that appear indistinguishable but reveal differences on closer inspection, Breitz’s Factum consists of interviews with identical twins, found by placing ads on craigslist, an urban online network, in Toronto and in the city’s alternative weekly. Each set of twins appears side by side on matching monitors. Breitz spoke to each sibling separately about
his or her life using similar questions, then edited the discussions so the pair’s words and gestures played off one another, highlighting both parallels and departures. The college-age Kang sisters, for example, diverge when discussing whether one twin has had a tendency to look up to the other, while a set of seventy-something siblings tells complementary stories of getting not-quite-matching rounds of plastic surgery over the years. Each roughly one-hour-long double portrait leaves the viewer both impressed by the artist’s eloquent editing techniques and touched by the intensity of the relationships between the twins and the way they view the world.
The video installation Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon) shows twenty-five hardcore fans re-performing Lennon’s first solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970). The album addresses traumatic
experiences from Lennon’s childhood and was influenced strongly by Janov’s primal therapy. Lennon screams out his anger and despair and so do the 25 fans Breitz has casted from the many more who answered her ad in fan magazines. Each one was filmed separately by the artist, and through what were for them extremely intimate fan moments the viewer gets a real sense of the pain and the meaning that the songs and John Lennon as a person has for each fan. The result is a 39-minute-55-second-long video in a continuous loop on 25 flat screens, forming a 25-person a cappella choir of fans – mostly from England, Wales, and Scotland – each performing his own interpretation of the original album. Working Class Hero is Breitz’s fourth portrait of a pop star with his or her music and fans. Previous works in this series were Legend (A Portrait of Bob Marley), 2005, Queen (A Portrait of Madonna), 2005, and King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson), 2005. Seen as a
whole, these portraits represent an ongoing examination of the changing face of fan culture as well as the subtle mechanisms of projection, identification, and consumption that characterize the relationship between icons and their followers.