Video Sheds A Funky New Light on Blind Man's Bluff
May 24, 2003
By Robert Reid
Andrew Wright is fascinated with how we perceive the world.
This preoccupation underlies and informs an exhibition at Toronto's Peak Gallery — Blind Man's Bluff and Other Fictions — and a series of large-scale photographic prints — 5 Skies for Pioneer Park — installed at Kitchener's Pioneer Park Community Library
The centrepiece of the Toronto exhibition is a feature-length video the Kitchener artist wrote, directed and taped in his studio inspired by the horror film Blind Man's Bluff, which was one of Boris Karloff's last movies. Made in 1967 and released in 1971, the film is also titled Cauldron of Blood.
Described as "a feature-length story of intrigue, art, murder and questionable filmmaking," Wright's Blind Man's Bluff subversively challenges notions of narrative, representation and interpretation.
The medium is definitely the message in Wright's engagingly provocative art. As he explains during a brief, yet far-ranging, chat (he phoned from a pay phone), the video is a response to contemporary DVD technology especially the Descriptive Video Service (DVS) that enables blind people to "see" movies. "It's additional text overlaid on films, which describes visual elements," Wright says. "Visual information becomes verbal information."
Another popular aspect of DVDs that concerns Wright is directors' commentaries, which he says restricts interpretation. These aren't only completely inane, they close down the possibilities of interpretation." Wright says he came across the horror film by accident while looking for movies with the word "Blind" in their titles. "It's a really bad film but I became intrigued by what makes it so bad. There's some good actors in it and, while much of the dialogue is terrible, some of it's really quite good." As fate would have it, the film is about art. Or, at least, about a blind sculptor whose skeletal models are actually victims of his murdering wife.
It's what Wright does with this sordid, utterly forgettable B-horror flick that is interesting.
He began by watching the movie and writing a text that meticulously describes everything that happens, both visually and auditorily This text acts as subtitles. He then hired actor Alan Sapp as The Describer. Sapp is taped watching the movie and reading from Wright's descriptive text. "We never see or hear the actual film," Wright chirps gleefully. "That's why I refer to it as the best film you'll never see." To complicate matters, Sapp doesn't only follow the text. He ad libs when he feels it's appropriate. "As the film progresses, he becomes more involved," Wright adds with a chuckle. "It becomes ridiculously comical."
The result is a double whammy on the ears: "You hear read what's being said and you hear what's being seen." Sound confusing? Wright calls it a reversal. "The auditory becomes visual and the visual becomes auditory" By deconstructing the techniques and the conventions of film, Wright produces a multi-layered, postmodern parody.
The Other Fictions of the exhibition's title refers to the kind of large-scale photographic prints installed in the Pioneer Park library. The photographs were taken by Wright when he was Kitchener artist-in-residence in 2001. Using a large, homemade, pinhole camera, he took photographs of the sky outside the Reflecting Studio beside Civic Square in downtown Kitchener. The prints were developed in an improvised darkroom "under the mayor's office." The photographs reflect Wright's compulsion to strip images down to elemental levels. "I'm intrigued by what happens when light goes through a hole," he says. The series of five 107X107-centimetre prints are mounted on the library's rafters. As a viewer looks up at the photographs, his or her eyes are drawn to a skylight that opens onto the actual sky. "It turns the library into a giant camera," Wright observes, adding "it's a really fun piece."
ART EXHIBIT Who: Andrew Wright What: Blind Man's Bluff and Other Fictions
Where: Peak Gallery 23 Morrow Ave., Toronto
When: Through June 21 Phone: 416 537 8108 Web: www.peakgallery.com
Opening reception today 2 p.m.- 6 p.m.