info I contact
advertising
editorial schedule
acknowledgements
join the realtime email list
become a friend of realtime on facebook
follow realtime on twitter
donate

magazine  archive  features  rt profiler  realtimedance  mediaartarchive

contents

  

after cinema: the meeting of feeling & meaning

darren jorgensen: jesper just, john curtin gallery


Sirens of Chrome, Jesper Just Sirens of Chrome, Jesper Just
courtesy the artist
GOING TO THE CINEMA TODAY IS A NOSTALGIC THING TO DO, AS HOME ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEMS OFFER A SIMILAR SORT OF IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE. THE MULTIPLEXES NOW RESORT TO ALL KINDS OF TRICKS TO ATTRACT AUDIENCES, FROM FIRST CLASS SEATS TO 3D GLASSES. IT IS AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF THIS CRISIS FOR CINEMA THAT JESPER JUST’S SHORT FILMS ARE INSTALLED, CINEMATICALLY, AT THE JOHN CURTIN GALLERY IN PERTH.

Several recessed rooms offer a sumptuous simulation of the multiplex, their doors open so that we are able to wander between films, between moods. This is indeed moody, melancholy stuff, as old men cry and young men sing. Yet these intensely choreographed vignettes also work to deconstruct the cinematic conventions that conspire to affect us. Movements are slow, controlled and slightly out of synch with their narratives, representing in style the disconnection that is also the theme of the relationships they depict.

The men in No Man is an Island II (2004) sit apart from each other in a windowless bar covered with erotic portraits of women, before coming together in a choral cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” In Bliss and Heaven (2004) a truck driver dressed in drag breaks into Olivia Newton-John’s “Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting.” When he finishes and breaks into tears, it is difficult not to recall the pivotal scene at Club Silencio in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001) where the host reminds us that the performance is only a recording, only to have the singer drop dead while her voice carries on echoing through the theatre. Just’s films are full of such allusions to cinema and its conventions for simulating feeling. The truck driver’s song is uncannily moving although the scene is a comic one, in a duplicity of affect that leaves us unsure as to the film’s genre.

While Just’s earlier work focuses on men, curator Chris Malcolm has included his later attention to women. The Sirens of Chrome (2010) uses an Angelo Badalamenti style track to score an encounter between a woman and a parked car. She rolls over it in a choreographed orgy of limbs, chrome reflections and hair. Again it is difficult not to fall into the trap of genre confusion that Just has set for us, as the close camera makes it appear as if the woman is being hit by a moving vehicle, and simultaneously as if she is moving to a trashy modelling routine. This kind of ambiguity accounts for the strength of the work, immersed as it is in cinematic allusion. The women in Just’s films are far more in control than his men, who instead break into song and tears in desperate attempts to break the cold deadlock that separates them from others.

The cinematic installation of Just’s films offers a way of meditating on the subtleties of the medium in a way that online versions of the same (mostly on YouTube) can’t reproduce. Their affects are tied up in the qualities of cinematography and music, the details of performance and mise-en-scène. It is also Just’s reliance on cinematographers, musicians and other technicians of feeling that marks his work out as part of a more conservative stream of contemporary art. This is what Terry Smith calls “remodernism,” that revivifies older artistic practices (here, cinema), and lends itself to a history of art in a way that the much more radical contemporary video and new media movements do not. In this sense Just’s contemporaries reside less in the new democracy of the camera than in Hollywood. Just’s art becomes a way of thinking through the spectacle of this culture industry that carries on despite its apparent demise.

Jesper Just, Something to Love, 2005, production still Jesper Just, Something to Love, 2005, production still
image courtesy of the Artist; Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris; and Galleri Christina Wilson, Copenhagen
It is appropriate, then, that Jesper Just helps us to be suspicious of the filmic conventions that are laid bare in his films. In Something to Love (2005), a black car moves through a car park, ominously suggestive, as if in some Swedish detective drama, before a man in tears disrupts the cool toughness of this cinematic cliché. The intersections and encounters in Just’s films return us to the point at which meaning and feeling come together, so that we are held in a state of suspense by their ambiguities, their combinations of cinema conventions, method acting and cover songs. These are remixes of a polished kind, lifting the tropes of classical Hollywood cinema into a slowed down and sublime version of themselves.


Jesper Just, curator Chris Malcolm, John Curtin Gallery, Curtin University, Perth, Feb 11-April 8; http://johncurtingallery.curtin.edu.au

RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 pg. 46

© Darren Jorgensen; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

Back to top