Los Angeles

George Stone

Meyers/Bloom Gallery

George Stone’s latest kinetic installation, Men and Women, 1991, consists of twin metal mechanisms, mounted from floor to ceiling in the middle of an otherwise empty gallery, each holding a video monitor that moves up, down, and around the structure of shiny metal poles. The videotapes show slow camera pans that move along and around the nude figures of a man or a woman, gradually revealing every inch of the subjects’ flesh. It becomes quickly apparent that the motions of the monitors in the gallery mimic exactly the movements in space of the cameras that tracked the now-absent figures.

The monitors and their armatures orbit above metal bases that house each machine’s guiding electronics, suggesting a couple of ghost detectors whose video emissions reveal the otherwise unseen phantoms standing on the platforms. The oddly harmonic drone of the machinery provides an aural counterpoint to the spectral visions on the monitors.

The automation itself makes for a splendid visual experience, all gleaming metal and gadgetry. The apparatus seems not only to present the human images but to corral them within a prosthetic embrace of gears and gyrations. Indeed, Stone’s apparatuses recall the fanciful machinery in the Marquis de Sade’s Eugénie de Franval with which the libertine Valmont could observe, without being able to touch, the beautiful young girl who was the object of his lust. Also, as in Sade’s case, the control of the equipment here rests neither with the viewer nor with the subjects, but with the artist who has programmed the event.

Yet the Sadean spectacle was instigated by a relationship between its participants quite unlike that of the observer with these televised images. At intervals the video replays, and their accompanying movements cease, resuming with different figures, also unclad. Stone’s models are either black or white, and of various ages and standards of physical attractiveness. But they have all stood stock still before the lens of the passing camera, staring through its recording eye. Viewers could position themselves so as to see the various erogenous body parts when the camera passed over them, but the inert flesh of the models, so obviously there for the benefit of the camera, never really invites desire. In this way, Stone uses his technology against itself, as well as against the reveries of his audience. For all the elaborate workings of his recording process, this mechanical re-creation offers viewers no imaginative access to the lives of its subjects. The stillness of the models helps the machinery develop its physiognomic illusions, while positioning them outside the arena of fantasy. Through their indifference, they act instead to dilute the scopophilic effect of Stone’s wondrous equipment.

Buzz Spector