Published  25/10/2005

Pop Culture on Repeat

Candice Breitz: Pop Culture on Repeat

White Cube, London
7 September-8 October 2005

Using today's most basic, accessible medium - the television - as her canvas, Candice Breitz treats film footage as found objects and pop fanatics as the makings of a chorus. Breitz's strong belief that, 'We learn who we are by watching others' fuels her exhibition of new works on view at the White Cube gallery in London.

In a two-part video installation, 'Mother + Father' (2005), Breitz uses reccurring narrative themes from film and television to portray the roles of parents as individuals whose lives become inextricably intertwined through shared children. Tackling an issue that is so often discussed and questioned today, Breitz goes to the source of images that constantly inundate our culture. In each segment, she has selected six mothers and fathers of the silver screen and separated them from their filmic context by digitally deleting their surrounds, leaving them as vulnerable characters on black screens. The mothers, including Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep, scream, laugh, and cry together: 'I never wanted to be a mother' and 'Everything I did, I did out of love for you.' While Steve Martin, Tony Danza and the other fathers discuss abandonment and Daddy's little girl: 'God damn her' and 'Two times a month we spend the weekends together.'

Breitz picks dialogue that forces the mothers and fathers, separately, to discuss the difficulties of parenthood. The actresses and actors stand captive, doomed to relive their harrowing realisations and depressed outbursts, almost on repeat. In using the characters to create her own film, Breitz explores the clandestine narratives that are not always easy to find. 'We can train ourselves to examine and process the images that are fed to us, rather than simply swallowing them whole,' Breitz has said, explaining her appropriation of cultural materials.

Continuing this concern with the power of the mass media to shape who we are and what we value, Breitz turns from the stars themselves to explore the very consumers of popular culture, in 'Queen (A Portrait of Madonna)', 2005. Thirty television sets line the back wall from floor to ceiling and each screen plays host to a different eccentric fan singing and dancing along to Madonna's Immaculate Collection album playing on their headphones. Although filmed separately, the fans' intense passion for the singer spreads across the screens in a rhythmic frenzy of movement and an atonal, yet harmonious, chorus. The success of the piece comes from the close, unforgiving angle at which Breitz captures her subject. The camera focuses on the subject from the shoulders to the top of the head, forcing all of the action and expression to come from the face and arms, which, from time to time reach above and beyond the square of the screen. As Breitz captures these individual portraits - a man with a Madonna-style Mohawk and a lot of make-up, or a woman wearing angel wings and waving a wand - she brings them together to represent Madonna herself.

In both pieces the artist focuses on the mutually dependent relationship between fan and star that so often goes unnoticed or undervalued. Using the often opaque and obscure media of video installation, she captivates her audience using familiar images and clear subjects. Born in South Africa, Breitz currently resides in Berlin and exhibits worldwide. 'Mother + Father' is on view at the 2005 Venice Biennale.

Doro Globus

1. Candice Breitz and Louise Neri: Eternal Returns. Berlin, 2005.

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