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

  
Tanya  Visosevic with visitors to Cuticle Tanya Visosevic with visitors to Cuticle
photo Justin Spiers
THE INTIMATE WORLD OF THE SUBURBAN NAIL SALON IS THE SUBJECT OF WEST AUSTRALIAN PERFORMANCE AND VIDEO ARTIST TANYA VISOSEVIC’S SHOW AT THE FREMANTLE ARTS CENTRE. WHILE THE TITLE, CUTICLE, DESCRIBES THE FINGERNAILS AND TOENAILS THAT DRIFT ACROSS THE SCREENS OF VISOSEVIC’S VIDEO WORKS, THE SHOW ALSO SUGGESTS THE SECOND MEANING OF THE TERM, THIS BEING THE SHELLS OF INSECTS. DIGITS ARE INDEED DETACHED FROM THE BODY, PERFORMING LOOPED ROUTINES WHILST CUSHIONED ON PINK SPONGES AND WHITE COTTON. THEY HAVE A LIFE OF THEIR OWN HERE, AS STARS OF VISOSEVIC’S SCREENS, TO PRODUCE UNCANNY EFFECTS.

Visosevic’s choice of soundtracks is symptomatic of this interest in the strange: Roy Orbinson’s In Dreams (1963), The Carpenters’ Close to You (1970) and Blondie’s In the Flesh (1976) have long been appropriated by cult filmmakers and musicians to evoke the strangeness of American suburbia. Here these dreamy songs ease our way into experiencing the other-worldliness of the show, as does an overpowering smell of cosmetic chemicals, and pink curtains that filter the sun into dim, pastel light.

Looming over the space is Fantasy Nailed, the projection of a diamond studded nail that dissolves into blurs of starry light. Through a series of video-era wipes, the effect is repeated to dazzle its viewer with the spectacle of diamonds and silver light. Yet this is an exception to Visosevic’s series of very small video screens that require us to lean close in order to peer into them. One is placed inside a handbag, another rests upon a child’s pink stool and a third lies in the drawer of a dresser. Their scale invites a certain intimacy, yet their scenes are disturbing, as performing fingers and toes encounter scissors and nail brushes, fluorescent varnishes and, in Pulsating Pink, a hammer-like movement of the camera that appears to break a nail. The seductiveness of the nail salon, its pink and white light, its promise of softness, is ruined as fingers are mutilated and distorted by Visosevic’s expert video manipulations. All this while the voice of Karen Carpenter echoes through the salon-gallery: “Just like me, they long to be, close to you.” The Carpenters’ classic appears obscene rather than innocent, a prelude to something sinister.

In an untitled work that first greets the visitor, a gloved hand reaches across the screen but stops, its fingers slowly curling into the palm. Cut to a sign on-screen that reads “Ring for Service”, but the hand cannot accept its invitation. Hand and sign are looped into an endless hesitation, an infinite regress of uncertainty. Is this because, like Rene Magritte’s pipe in The Treachery of Images (1929), there is no bell off-screen, but only this sign of a bell? This story will never resolve itself. Like a broken DVD we are destined to experience only this moment, this fragment, the rest of the tale forever hidden from us.

Visosevic’s performance of subtle uncertainty becomes the viewer’s own uncertainty in Candy Forever and Emergency. Candy Forever is a mobile phone video, available for visitors to download. A mouth sucks on a middle finger before it appears from between the lips with a green nail, sticking up as if to suggest the owner has given us the birdie, or to tempt us with its strange eroticism. The choice of the middle finger in Emergency Red also turns from seduction to aggression. Situated inside a dresser drawer, cushioned by cotton wool, the video shows a middle finger intercut with titles that recollect a daytime soap opera, a pink lollipop and Visosevic herself in a garishly decorated sadomasochist mask and pink dress. One of her fingers beckons while another urges us to be quiet, appearing to whisper to us some secret that lies within the nail salon, but which we cannot hear.

The montage is on the one hand erotic and on the other perverse and sadistic. It recalls David Cronenberg’s Videodrome (1983), in which footage of Deborah Harry’s lips merge with a television, inviting James Woods to merge with the ‘new flesh’ of the Videodrome universe. So too Visosevic’s invitation to join us on the other side of the screen, inside the fantasy of the nail salon, is at once a temptation and a perversion. The nail salon, ostensibly the subject of the show, is but a window into concerns about the perverse qualities of the screen and the life of digits themselves.


Tanya Visosevic, Cuticle, Fremantle Arts Centre, April 7-May 24

RealTime issue #91 June-July 2009 pg. 53

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

Back to top