By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
On the opposing wall across the room one finds One Million Kingdoms, the second video of the exhibition running on a loop carefully timed to start once Les Grands Ensembles has ended. The two videos situated crosswise make for a nice rhetoric of light, video and space as both share a commitment to architecture and landscape. Beyond that, the two videos are worlds apart. One Million Kingdoms features "Annlee," a doe-eyed and lonesome adolescent girl modeled after Japanese anime and manga, or figures from Japanese comic books. Huyghe and his colleague and collaborator, Philippe Parreno, bought the rights to Annlee, making her the starlet of a series of animation shorts. We are lucky to see Annlee here in our own back yard as videos of her are now rare. She starred in only a few after being laid to rest by her owners. Huyghe and Parreno officially banned the use of Annlee at the close of 2002 after making 17 shorts.
In One Million Kingdoms we see Annlee walking in a lunar landscape that she creates with each footstep. Her voice is that of Neil Armstrong. Once again turning reality topsy-turvy, the landscape is not based on the moon but rather a region of Iceland used by NASA for training in the 1960s. And, while the voice is Armstrong's, Annlee recites passages from Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). Here references abound like gales in a maelstrom of fact quickly becoming fiction quickly becoming fact once again. Annlee becomes the solemn but witty bearer of doubt about the historic event of the moon landing, suggesting that perhaps it was on the flat, pock-ridden anti-summits of Iceland that Armstrong planted the American flag, rooting one hallowed moment of a nation's pride in the kitsch of a stage production rather than the true grandeur of galactic exploration.
In The Third Memory the wind thrusts of reference and memory give rise to a full-fledged tornado of storytelling and truth combined. Huyghe's video is based on a historical event inspired by cinema, the 1972 robbery committed by the bank teller-turned-buccaneer John Wojtowicz. After watching The Godfather in a nearby theater, Wojtowicz decided to rob a bank in Brooklyn in order to get money for his gay lover, Ernest Aron, to have a sex change operation. This all may begin to ring a bell as, beyond mere coverage in the news, a movie was made in 1975 based on the momentous occasion--Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino as Wojtowicz.
The installation takes up two rooms, the first room devoted to news clips from both television and newspaper and the second to a room-scale video installation of Wojtowicz re-enacting the robbery in 1999. While the newspaper clips hung on the wall are informative, the video clip of a talk show is humorous. From 1978, it stars a very John Currin-esque Liz Eden, né Ernest Aron, alternately in discussion with the show host, Jeanne Parr, and Wojtowicz, who is beamed in from jail by satellite. Flash forward 21 years; Eden has died an AIDS-related death, and the "truth" fabricated by Dog Day Afternoon has infiltrated Wojtowicz's personal memories of the event. Wojtowicz seems to confuse the constructed truths of Dog Day Afternoonwith the actual truths of the robbery. The video in the next room shows Wojtowicz re-enacting the robbery on a Parisian set inter-spliced with news footage of the actual event and Pacino's performance in the movie. We ask ourselves: Which is real? Which was real? Which has become real?
Huyghe's videos make palpable the surreal quality of reality. They are ironic and refreshing--and both critical and philosophical-minded as well. But there's no moralizing here, just pure fun and folly and at no one's expense except our own. We are the ones who willfully gather at the elixir-bearing tap of the spectacle, soaking up its liquor stupor that turns us into so many happy and hardy bleary-eyed consumers of our collective constructed reality.