signalling, not clowning

urszula dawkins: emile zile, five production company logos in 3D

{$slideshow} IN HIS VIDEO WORK FIVE PRODUCTION COMPANY LOGOS IN 3D, EMILE ZILE STANDS AROUND LOOKING SLIGHTLY BORED IN JEANS AND A HOODIE IN AN EMPTY SPACE THAT COULD BE A GALLERY, EXCEPT THAT IT’S LIT BY OFFICE-STYLE SETS OF CEILING FLUOROS. INCONGRUOUSLY, WE HEAR A DESCENDING WALL OF SOUND MIMICKING PERFECTLY THE IMPRESSIVE ZOOMS AND SWEEPS OF CINEMA COMPANY PROMOS—AND FROM HIP HEIGHT WE WATCH ZILE GIVE US THE ACCOMPANYING ‘3D GRAPHICS’ IN A SERIES OF SMALL-FRAME HAND MOVEMENTS. THE GESTURES ARE BOTH RIDICULOUS AND ORDINARY. IN A DIFFERENT CONTEXT THEY MIGHT READ AS EXPLANATORY OR, ODDLY, AS A MIX OF ‘SHOWING’ AND ‘GIVING.’

When the ‘music’ zooms in, out, up or down, so do the hands. One by one, Zile works his way through five short aural ‘signature’ tracks over two and a half minutes, never appearing to take any more interest in what his hands are doing than he might if he were at home watching a series of TV ads. It looks vacuous, but no less so than the brightly coloured starbursts and rotating logos of corporate motion graphics. Which I guess is, at least in part, the point.

Amsterdam and Melbourne-based Emile Zile’s work ranges from solo performances to VJ-ing, gallery installations and video. Five Production Company Logos in 3D fits into a stream of Zile’s thinking that concerns itself with “an ever-accelerating culture of image consumption and distribution.” A couple of (much) earlier works put the new work into context for me, one of them being 6pm Personality (1999). TV newsreaders’ heads are fairly crudely disjoined from their words, bobbing and mouthing in reversed black and white. Almost too simple, their de-contextualisation exposes the coded patterns to which our perception so easily adapts, highlighting gestures that otherwise lock unnoticed onto our media ‘receptors’ like dubious nutrient onto enzyme.

And then there is Larry Emdur’s Suit (2002 see RT57, and RT84). Zile is chosen as a contestant on The Price is Right. He comes-on-down, gliding and shuffling. He shrugs, waves his hands, twitches and finishes up on stage, generating a series of movements that range in possible interpretation from ‘right on’ to ‘wow’ and then well beyond meaning. Host Larry Emdur can’t talk, he can only meet gesture with gesture, synching into Zile’s dance with a set of his own random movements—his ‘receptors’ forced to instantly accept Zile’s ‘language’ by TV’s imperative to keep moving seamlessly. Both works illustrate a fascination with body movement transformed for media consumption.

Philip Brophy, in his catalogue essay for Five Production Company Logos in 3D, sees Emile Zile’s groin-level gesturing aptly as a ‘spoof’ on masturbatory corporate excess. It strikes me also as a kind of post-mass-media shadow-puppetry, almost as though Zile might be telling us a story around the campfire, his flickering hands casting the shape of mythical battles or god-heroes onto thin air. The banal human presence is complicated by the artist’s transformation of gesture into looped-back, empty artifice. Throughout the video the glimpses of his shoulders and face, the way he wanders back into start-position between ‘takes,’ suggest boredom. There’s also something of the Archibald Packer’s Prize about it, the appearance of a moment where the common man steps out and has his say—or has a lend of us.

At face value Emile Zile spoofs the smoke and mirrors of the corporate-logo-in-extremis, but in the end, of course, his movements depend as much on our ability to read signs as the logo itself does. What separates it from a dumb joke is perhaps—or of course—only the gallery. It’s like air guitar, or a kind of 21st century Rolf Harris painting—a whipped-up cliché on a wall, elevated in status by the perfect, synthesised pomposity of Adam Milburn’s spot-on soundtrack. Married to Zile’s movements, Milburn’s swooping synths no longer signal the magnificence of big business and CGI graphics. Instead the audio pans out sideways to encompass the ego of the artist, even as the artist himself stands around in scuffed shoes ineffectually waving his hands.

The human body can only be in ‘3D,’ can’t it? And yet it’s obvious that what comes out of the graphics studio is as human—the product of clicks and drags—as a pair of hands, thumbs hooked together casting a bat shadow on the wall behind it. In the 2.5 minutes it takes for Zile’s Five Production Company Logos in 3D to loop around and begin again, his hands approach, recede, make clunky little chops in the air, respond to 60-Minutes-like ticking and Val Morgan-like aural morphings and take a rest at the end with briefly folded arms. In the CGI studio there’s a keystroke to ‘cut’ that monumental ending. Emile Zile simply clicks his fingers.

Five Production Company Logos in 3D, (single-channel video, 2010) artist Emile Zile, audio Adam Milburn, Dianne Tanzer Gallery, Melbourne April 2–23

RealTime issue #103 June-July 2011 pg. 46

© Urszula Dawkins; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

14 June 2011
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