Claudia and Julia Muller: Maccarone Inc. (New York).
A simple digital film in the upstairs gallery, a kind of slide show composed of successive versions of a single scene, showed a family whose members at intervals fade and are seamlessly replaced: The black daughter morphs into a white son; the dog in the father's arms becomes a baby, whose Caucasian features soon become Asian. The sleek mechanics of this looped digital projection contradict the homeyness of the narrative, which smacks of a Sesame Street lesson in colorblind togetherness--though the relentless replacement of the vapidly smiling characters feels increasingly sinister, as each carefully delineated individual seems absent rather than present, merely a sign for an ethnic or cultural category.
Just as the individuals in the drawings have been liberated from the situational happenstance of the snapshot only to be subsumed within the equalizing serial form, the family members in the video are granted individual identities within the group by virtue of their cultural difference, but the random distribution of generic ethnic attributes also has the effect of depersonalizing them altogether. Further, the distancing effect of the drawings' mechanical processes of projection and tracing compound that of the camera behind the original image while echoing the barrier of the costume, definitively denying the subject any degree of spiritual existence. And in the film the scheduled, automated replacement of family members posits the family unit as a template rather than a unique community. (Along these lines, it is significant that neither Muller seems to have any interest in distinguishing herself from her sister; in transcribed interviews, as in drawing style, they speak as one.) Yet the artists' efforts to locate the individual within the category are clearly earnest, and ultimately their work is profoundly--if unsentimentally--humanist, sensitive to the plight of both the individual striving for self-definition and the group struggling to retain its coherence.
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|Date:||May 1, 2003|
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