Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Phil Collins - They shoot horses

Phil Collins (born 1970) is an English artist, and Turner prize nominee.

His best known work is They Shoot Horses (2004) consisting of two videos each lasting seven hours and shown at the same time on different walls. This is a record of a disco dance marathon staged by the artist with nine Palestinians in Ramallah. Music from the last three decades is played and the young people are captured in a single camera take, as they dance or, at times, stand round or slump to the floor.

'They shoot horses' is a two screen, seven hour video installation depicting a disco dance marathon. The artist auditioned for participants in Ramallah, Palestine in March 2004, and filmed two separate groups of young people dancing throughout the course of a working day, without any breaks.

'They shoot horses' resists any facile social and political interpretations presenting us instead with a number of intriguing paradoxes. A work about cultural translation and cultural imperialism; about the liberating nature of music, and the cabin fever mentality, generated by eight hours of repetitive action. It is at once concerned with survivalism and collapse; heroism and exploitation. For Collins the point of an artwork is to fall in love, and the point of love is to realise our place within the world.

Phil Collins’s work often originates in areas of conflict, shifting the focus away from sensationalist news coverage to reveal unexpected aspects of life in contested territories - from Belfast to Belgrade to Baghdad and Bogotá.

they shoot horses shows a disco dance marathon produced in Ramallah with a group of young Palestinians. The work’s title is taken from a 1935 novel by Horace McCoy and its film adaptation directed by Sydney Pollack. These both focus on the American craze for dance marathons during the Great Depression, which became a form of popular entertainment based around the exploitation of the contestants.

Ramallah, a Palestinian city under Israeli occupation, has been the site of much violence and political unrest. While not directly political, they shoot horses resonates with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The artist auditioned participants in February 2004 and filmed two separate groups of young people dancing during the course of a day without any breaks. Throughout, the production was interrupted by power failures, technical problems and calls to prayer from a nearby mosque revealing the elation, stoicism and eventual exhaustion of the dancers. The work is concerned with heroism and collapse and reveals beauty surviving under duress.
Clarrie Wallis

Consisting of music he loves and music he loathes, the seven hours of music Collins has assembled acts as a self-portrait. At the same time, the selection emphasises what he and the dancers have in common, while also highlighting differences between them. When it’s music he loves, the soundtrack functions as a gift: a way of enveloping those he wants to love in music he loves. When it’s music he loathes, it evokes the insidious global spread of the most cynical excesses of the Western entertainment industry. One aspect of himself that he doesn’t leave at home is his own identity as a queer artist, a factor oddly excised in virtually all commentary on his work, but which, one senses, has contributed to the formation of his distinct brand of radical cosmopolitanism and his desire to reach across differences. Plainly an undeniable, camp irreverence arises from staging a Smiths’ karaoke in Bogotá, a 1970s’ disco in Palestine or re-making Andy Warhol’s Screentests (1963–6) in Baghdad (baghdad screentests, 2002). Within normative patterns of sexual identity Collins’ is himself Other. Instead of repressing this aspect of himself when he engages with geo-political issues (sexuality, typically, playing little part in these discussions), he builds it into the work through his choice of cultural signifiers, leading one to suppose that the politics of his own identity, as much as any one else’s, lies behind his desire for heightened exchange. For Collins the camera is a libidinal apparatus, rather than one that reduces others to stereotypes. In his hands it gives rise to shared moments of catharsis and emancipation in the face of everyday oppression.
Alex Farquharson

1 comment:

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