Welcome to goth Blockbuster. South African artist Candice Breitz’s installation at Goodman Gallery is row after row of VHS tapes, all painted pitch black, their covers buried in thick, patterned, tar-coloured plastic, except for one single verb nicked from the film’s title, left behind in gleaming white.
1999’s Robert Deniro hit ‘Analyze This’ becomes just ‘Analyze’, ‘Bewitched’ becomes ‘Bewitch’, ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut’ becomes simply ‘Park’. It’s fun with grammar, Breitz verb-ifying all these films, turning them into commands, orders.
Then she groups them thematically: rent, trade and inherit on one shelf, murder, massacre, and butcher on another. One wall even tells the story of a love affair in film titles: love, vacation, mother, cheat, abandon, etc.
And the whole time you look for cultural signposts, signifiers in the typography as to what the original films are that have been encased in these black coffins. It’s really, really smart, because it forces you to look for emotional narratives, conceptual structures and cultural allusions. You’re desperately trying to figure out the themes, the feelings and the films.
The work is described as a ‘multi-channel video installation’, which is ridiculous, because these are static sculptures. And that’s a good thing. Every single one is a love letter to typography, to Hollywood, to design, to physical mediums that are now long dead.
That’s where this contemporary art version of Blockbuster gets really goth: when you notice how much death there is here. Not just in verbs like massacre and stab and splatter written across all the VHS tapes, but in each work being a little tombstone to a dead format, to a way of life, to a form of cultural exchange that just doesn’t exist anymore. RIP video home systems, you are already missed.