Martin Arnold: Deanimated

  • 5 July 2003 - 24 August 2003

Martin Arnold's film work is celebrated worldwide and he has won numerous awards and accolades for his innovative and experimental approach to filmmaking. Trained in psychology in Vienna, Arnold defined his signature style of forward and back looping of images - mostly taken from popular Hollywood films - with a series of outstanding work made between 1989 and 1998 culminating in the release of Alone. Life wastes Andy Hardy (1998).

The unlikely source material of the Andy Hardy film series (more than 10 films were released between 1937 and 1958) starring child prodigies Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, was used to create an absorbing and compulsive reworking of familiar material. Using virtuoso editing techniques and introducing a new hypnotic soundtrack to accompany a single scene, Arnold's film drew a provocative sexual energy and psychic intensity from the seemingly banal source material.

During the past few years Arnold has become increasingly interested in making film work for a gallery context. As part of this new direction, FACT is presenting three recently produced installations. Gallery 1 is transformed into an 80-seat cinema where Deanimated (The Invisible Ghost 1941) will be screened on an hourly basis. In this work, Arnold literally de-animates the original Hollywood b-movie by digitally erasing one character at a time. The increasingly empty scenarios, at times inhabited by actors whose facial expressions have been morphed and whose dialogue consequently appears to make less and less sense, emphasise the ghost-like effects initially intended in the original film.

Deanimated not only comments on the digital possibilities of rewriting existing filmic material and its potential new meanings, the title also refers to a certain extraction of the soul. In psychoanalytic terms the soul is also referred to as the anima. In a symbolic gesture it is here being carefully erased. In this regard Deanimated comments on the increasingly troubled relationship between what appears on the screen and the dialogue with the viewer as the characters with whom we identify gradually disappear from view.

 

Gallery 2 features work that draws on the identities and myths of some of the key women inhabiting the history of film. In a new version of Arnold's Jeanne (The Suffering of Joan of Arc 1928) based on Carl Theodore Dreyer's silent film, emphasis is placed on the repressed longings of Jeanne and the visually explicit incapacity to fulfil her own desires. Her subtle facial expressions have been programmed into an endless, but never repeating, loop. The other work in Gallery 2, Dissociated (All About Eve 1950) locates the viewer in the middle of the fight scene between the two key women in the film. Projected onto two screens facing each other, where each of the actresses has been dedicated a screen of her own, emphasis is placed on the strange and somewhat uncanny detachment between two women talking to each other. Again, unexpressed emotions, repressions and subliminal forces rule their stifled conversation. 

Deanimated is staged in collaboration with the Kunsthalle, Vienna and supported by the Austrian Cultural Forum.

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