George Kuchar On Simon Hughes’ Awakening Of Desire & Doug Melnyk’s Danny Kayes Eyes
North of the border, up there in Canada where the snow geese honk, there’s a yellow chickadee chatting with a downtrodden burro. The talk is serious (even though the burro is wearing a wicker sunbonnet). It deals with nuclear weapons and the nodding donkey seems to feel guilty for having contributed to their construction. The toy animal keeps bobbing its head in shame as the sound track murmurs on with familiar voices from Hollywood. The other toy, all puffed up with bright yellow plumage, is like the Rock of Gibraltar compared to its cowering companion. The toys are stationed in a shoe-box set decorated with bright carpeting and some miniature, museum-like paintings framed and hung on the cardboard walls. There’s an air of artistic aspiration in the lifeless forms that permeates these shoe-box sets, yet the cheap figurines also seem frozen by the stigma of past deeds in need of cleansing.
A cleansing does occur later on in the tape, but it gives the impression of being dirtier than the misdeeds in need of washing. Most viewers will probably prefer guilt over the golden shower that flows from the human appendage that pokes into this semi-immobile world of assembly-line bric-a-brac, the one organic thing in this world of animatronic angst. The figurines stand around or stiffly trot down streets of manicured cuteness, only to stumble upon human anatomy at its drippy best. The appendage performs one of its duel functions, sweeping a dumbstruck farmer into a hole situated in the centre of what appears to be a living room, but could be an art gallery. The urine-spouting sculpture reminds me of the controversy surrounding so many current art exhibitions and its effect on middle America. ( I personally think, though, that the middle American is comfortable with urination, flatulent bovines, cow pies, etc., and that the real offended masses are those who frequent the sanitized opulence of Lincoln Centre or Carnegie Hall. But perhaps I am wrong and these souls, too, thirst for a splash of yellow to accent the greyness of their lives.) In any case, the violent disposal of this rigid dumbstruck statuette – painted up in the finest farming attire – is the action climax to the video in which a throbbing organ invades this innocent domain of the damned. We, the viewers, don’t know which scenario we prefer: the mechanical, monotonous, morbid melancholy evoked by the figurines or the sudden erection of fluid-filled extremities in need of release. At least the latter is capable of sweeping us off our feet into deeper dimensions of black holes (or holes of various other nuances). This video by Simon Hughes, entitled Awakening of Desire (1997), awakens these thoughts in me.
in Doug Melnyk’s videotape, Danny Kaye’s Eyes (1992), we see through the filter of mythology. This hyper-vision is encased in a smaller screen size because it narrows in on a world more of interiors than of mirror-like reflections. The computer, of course, is the instigator of the smaller frame, and that machine – with its silicone chips and alien physique – is the perfect embodiment for this electronic poem. And a true epic poem it is. The constellations are there in all their glory, and so is the glory hole of human fusion. The figures that run through this dreamlike piece are fractured in the heavens, yet their corporeal shapes live on in the connect-the-dots mentality of the dreamers who float above their beds. Joined both in biological and homoerotic fusions, these suspended lovers sleep under the heroic stars of our ancestors, who humped their way into the firmament regardless of the sex of the denizens or deities they were humping. This free-love universe above the heads of the cutout character, whose sightless orbs become transfixed to TV screens in Danny Kaye’s Eyes, makes us lament the shrinkage of our libidinous vistas. In this piece, the vistas are glimpsed in all their magnificent variety. This royally decadent parade of luminous deviants arcs across the Milky Way to gaze earthward with millions of scintillating eyes, which focus in on the hordes of bare-assed bathers lining the shores of antiquity.
In contrast to this, the two eyes of Mr. Danny Kaye, as he ogles the blonde bombshell named Virginia Mayo, seem a cartoonlike version of the grand passions that are emblazoned across the firmament in a white-hot fresco of classic pointillism. The narration on the tape even mentions the cartoony colors and supersaturated unreality of the palette that tints this shrunken rendition of romance and desire, which emanates from the boob-tube drama. Just as the video piece we are witnessing has been letter-boxed on all four sides by new technology, the once enormous face of the actor has also been shrunken down to fit the dimensions of the TV screen rendered in this computer-animation tape. It’s like one of those Chinese boxes. The big picture was once there, in the sky, then on the huge silver screens of movie palaces around the world. Then it shrank electronically, and the people of Earth feared the electomagnetic radiation of the new technology along with the ultraviolet and cosmic rays of the heavens. This video reinvigorates a lust for the celestial emanations that have forged our physical essence with supernova-generated secretions of “start stuff.”
– George Kuchar in Magnetic North exhibition catalogue, Jenny Lion, ed. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center.