Critics’ Picks

Still from Mother + Father, 2005.

Still from Mother + Father, 2005.

New York

Candice Breitz

Sonnabend Gallery
536 West 22nd Street
September 17–October 29, 2005

Candice Breitz’s video installation Mother + Father, 2005, which was shown at the recent Venice Biennale, consists of two adjacent rooms, each with six monitors. They feature synchronized videos in which the artist has blacked-out everything but individual actors and edited iconic performances (e.g., Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest or Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer) into a kind of sample/scratch version of the original “texts.” Dara Birnbaum’s Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1976, is the monophonic antecedent to Breitz’s polyphonic fugue, but where Birnbaum’s video pivoted around the axis of feminism/mass media representation, Breitz ups the stakes to accommodate multiple agendas, including copyright issues, piracy, and originality in the age of digital reproduction. The results are hilarious and effective. Two new works, King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson) and Queen (A Portrait of Madonna), both 2005, in which a rogues’ gallery of “ordinary” people sing the pop stars’ greatest hits, creating an a cappella chorus, also taps into ideas of media, gender, performance, and the popular text—not quite with the acuity of Mother + Father, but with an intensity that still raises goose bumps.