Released January 13, 2015
by Cole Tracy
Cinematic stardom, cultural diffusion, and the need for approval collide in Candice Breitz’s exhibition “The Woods.” Three video installations depict actors from three epicenters of contemporary cinematic production: Hollywood, Bollywood, and Nollywood, located in California, India, and Nigeria, respectively. One installation, The Audition (all works 2012), depicts twenty-five American children, who are struggling for a persona, as they are informed by authoritarian entertainment industry professionals that they lack charisma and optimism. In this metadiegetic audition, shown on six vertical video panels, children stand solitarily decontextualized before a white backdrop as the boundary between script and reality is intentionally confused. The artist filmed each of these auditions for more than an hour, focusing on the intermediate moments of manifest discomfort in the children’s repetitive gestures, such as grabbing at a shirt, continuously sipping water, or irregularly moving their hands. In splicing together recited monologues, dances, singing, and awkward passages of standing, the kids display the uniformity of their aspirations instead of the uniqueness they crave as Hollywood aspirants.
In The Rehearsal, six mildly famous Bollywood preteens confidently quote from interviews with the Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan. They tout a strong work ethic and endorse, above all, normality. American signifiers such as brand-name clothing and vocabulary influence their portrayal of glamour and stardom. Throughout is a diametric opposition between aspiring Americans searching for individualism and the staged naturalism of Indian performers proclaiming the banality of stardom.
In the last video, The Interview, two Nigerian actors named Aki and Pawpaw, who are known for playing children, discuss their previous roles, as references to Gary Coleman abound. Within these works, Breitz analyzes the movie business and its murky attachment to an ideal persona that is less realized than produced through a strange and indoctrinating culture industry.