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Tiny, Big, Funny and Sad

Jennifer and Kevin McCoy at The Exchange, Newlyn, December 2007-January 2008

George Care



Jennifer and Kevin McCoy describe themselves as artistic collaborators, possibly with the knowledge that the term 'collaborator' can have ironic overtones. From Sacramento and Seattle respectively, they now live in Brooklyn and have exhibited in the UK before at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester in 1998, and more recently in 2007 at the Southbank. Their installations deal with the genres of cinema and science fiction using digital technology, small scale models and video projection.

The two pieces at the Exchange, 'Traffic' which is based on moments from the artistís lives, and 'The Constant World' inspired by the artist Constant Nieuwenhuys, both use well-known films as subject matter, but in doing so provoke contemplation on what might be described as a digital terra-incognita. This is both a land of intriguing little models in semi-darkness, and also disturbing-out-of focus images that follow the juddering mechanical progress of tiny traffic on set, whilst throwing up images that are sometimes evocative of the lonely tableaux vivants of Edward Hooper.



Traffic, viewed from above, reveals itself as four linked platforms each of which contains film sets entitled 'Our Second Date', 'At home', 'In the Cardiac Ward' (above: featuring American Grafitti) and 'At the bar' (below: featuring Bonnie and Clyde). Dramatic vignettes from these interior spaces and artificially lit outdoor street scenes are projected, after editing, onto the wall of the gallery. Other scenes are relayed into minute television sets watched by the McCoy figurines from films by Jean-Luc Godard, Spielberg, George Lucas and Arthur Penn, with each of the four tableaux represent recollections of watching these films in real life. 

The lights, cameras and set are openly displayed to encourage reflection on the electronic society of the spectacle. This is an intercommunicating and fragile robotic cinema which the artists claim 'explores the idea that thought, experience and memory are structured through genre and repetition'.



These works raise questions about the editing of 'takes' and the role which contemporary film may have in our own memories as with the changing scenes of public spaces that also inform our experiences of ourselves. There is the charm of the small model with its playful possibilities although the omnipresence of the glowing television monitor at the dramatic scenes played out in a hospital ward may be a reminder of more gloomy outcomes. Indeed, this exhibition is thought provoking about the persistent voyeurism by which so-called 'reality television' has battered sensibilities and response to the human needs of others.



'The Constant World' is a fascinating sculpture that looks like a large model of a crystal made in a light alloy with spheres at the vertices. It is inspired by the architectural drawings of Constant Nieuwenhuys' work 'The New Babylon'. Constant was a Danish Situationist concerned with 'unitary urbanism' (or urban design in which cities would no longer be viewed as purely functional), and related utopian theories of social interaction.

The structure contains some 36 miniature cameras and the subject material is involved with Jean-Luc Godardís science fiction film classic 'Alphaville' - although this is not obvious at first glance - and it points up the way in which those that structure the overall system may dominate social interaction within the state. Indeed Alphaville is, especially, America. The resulting digital control systems flash words and enigmatic images onto a large wall mounted plasma screen and amongst these are the terms 'VALUE', 'LEISURE' and other such ambiguous titles to set the viewer pondering into the semi-darkness.


Further information and photographs from the artists is at http://www.mccoyspace.com/

The photographs above were not taken at the Exchange