Monday, December 5, 2011

Play Dead; Real Time

For me, Douglas Gordon’s Play Dead; Real Time is a good example of art in which I am more attracted to the conceptual underpinnings, as opposed to the actual subject matter. So I’m not suggesting that this particular elephant is beautiful (even though she might truly be so; who is to say?) or that training elephants is beautiful (which can in fact be seen as somewhat ghastly and cruel). I’m more interested in what the video is doing for me. I like how the screens attempt to present the elephant as life-size as possible, as if it is in the room with us, filling our world like the elephant belongs to it. We can only work with what we’re given, so maybe our reaction is meant to be specific. By continually falling, the elephant on the screen would seem to anticipate our sensitivity to its struggle to get up. We’re momentarily invested in the animal’s effort, as if we’re somehow implicated in the action and called to respond. Only after we might remind ourselves that it’s not "real"— the elephant is trained and is probably doing just fine. I’m amazed by art that can produce those kinds of reactions in viewers.

I originally saw the video in a series that I cannot now find and which would be too long to post on here anyways. Sorry I couldn’t really find a good video without commentary that was just strictly on the installation.

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