Untitled (Cooper and doorway) Catherine Connolly

Untitled (Cooper and doorway) – Catherine Connolly

Originally published as an exhibition catalogue essay for Untitled (Cooper & Doorway), Catherine Connolly, BUS Projects, Melbourne 2010
Passing through the entrance of Bus Projects, I am incredibly conscious of each step I take as I ascend the stairs into the exhibition space. On this steamy Melbourne afternoon, my movements feel slow and exaggerated.  It is fitting then that the first work I encounter is Untitled (Cooper and Doorway), a video piece by Melbourne artist Catherine Connolly featuring Gary Cooper in an isolated piece of footage from the classic Western High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952). Like myself, Cooper’s movements have been slowed to an exaggerated speed. Aptly projected above the stairwell entrance/exit, I was transfixed by the looped footage of Cooper’s movements; the sequence was of an average moment however through its pace and repetition, it inspired contemplation.

Film critic Andrew Klevan focuses his study on the importance of everyday, “apparently banal or mundane” moments in narrative cinema to create meaning, believing they are overlooked owing to their “obviousness”.[1] Herein lays the beauty of the cinematic artform. Films are constituted by these pieces of our world, our reality, “something material”, yet this reality is “transposed, transformed into another world” – as Gilberto Perez declared, film is the “material ghost”.[2]

Today, in our digital age, we often take the power of film for granted. Unlike audiences from early cinema history, we do no flee from projected images of moving trains or marvel at trees fluttering in a visible wind – we are ignorant to the haunting presence before us. Consequently, in order to see the everyday on film, Klevan suggests we need distance ourselves from its obviousness, while paradoxically drawing ourselves closer to the text to make its meaning apparent.[3]

Isolating a particular filmic moment gives otherwise ignored filmic property life by considering how it contributes to our understanding of the film’s meaning. “[L]ike the Surrealist game of irrational enlargement”,[4] this monomaniacal form of creative-criticism draws on memory, impulse and emotion.

This is a creative-critical approach that is embraced by film critics and video-artists alike.[5] Connolly is in good company as filmic moments have been sampled, distorted, extended, slowed, emphasized, collaged and fragmented to create video-works by the likes of Candice Breitz, Douglas Gordon, Tracey Moffatt and Gary Hillberg.[6] In each of these cases, the artist has allowed a viewer to marvel at the power of the moving image by zooming in (literally and figuratively) to allow for deeper contemplation and emotional reaction (including humour), while creating an artwork of art in itself.

We all walk up stairs, pass through entrances and exits, however focusing on such an instance—like in Untitled (Cooper and Doorway)—draws out the power and potency of the quotidian to a film’s meaning. As the archetypal male hero, dominantly dressed in his black hat and waistcoat at the centre of screen, Cooper is perpetually staring out a vacant doorway with his back to the viewer. In this one-minute looped video, Connolly allows for endless contemplation about this rugged character, while comment on the framing of the hero in a Western film more generally – are they really so gruff and generic, or is there much more to these masculine creatures? Untitled (Cooper and Doorway) shows the hero forever hesitant, perpetually facing a threshold he will never pass through so that the viewer can peel back the multitudinous layers of meaning and marvel at the everyday magic on screen above their exit.

Untitled (Cooper & Doorway), Catherine Connolly, BUS Projects, Melbourne 2010

[1]  Klevan,  Disclosure of the Everyday: Undramatic Achievement in Narrative Film

(Trowbridge: Flick Books, 2000) 4.

[2]  Gilberto Perez, The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1998) 28.

[3] Klevan,  Disclosure , 4-5

[4] Adrian Martin, “Film & Video Cain & Abel,” MESH film/video/media/art (Spring,1993) June 1993 <http://www.experimenta.org/mesh/mesh01/1martin.html&gt;

[5] For example: David Thomson, V.F. Perkins, Stanley Cavell

[6] For example: Candice Breitz’s Silioquy Trilogy or Him + Her; Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho; Tracey Moffat’s Artist her collaboration with Gary Hillberg Doomed

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