t.j. wilcox - a fair tale & garland one
26 Jan - 4 Mar 2007
What do Marie Antoinette, the bulldog of the Romanov family and the Roman Emperor Hadrian have to do with one another? They are all characters in films by the American artist T.J. Wilcox, a typical story-teller.
Wilcox guides his visual narratives by the subtitles. There is generally no direct or unambiguous story line; rather, he creates an open relationship between the images and titles. This in turn opens up space for associations; the viewer’s own imagination is spurred into action.
T.J. Wilcox’s silent 16 mm films are collages of jumpy amateur material, historical images plucked from television, post cards, photographs and animation. They are obviously ‘hand made’, sometimes frame by frame, without the intervention of a professional film crew. Wilcox shoots his own material on super-8, manipulates it digitally, and then transfers the end result to 16 mm film stock. He was trained as a painter, a fact that can clearly be seen. He films layer over layer, in grainy, blurred images and overexposed colours. He brings together figures from world history, individuals from his childhood, celebrities and aristocrats into a cinematic combination of fact, fiction and fantasy which involuntarily draws the viewer along. In his work subjective history is mixed, as it were, with the reality of the news bulletin.
Docking Station shows two films by T.J. Wilcox: Garland One (2003), and his most recent work, A Fair Tale (2006). Their running times are five and eight minutes, respectively.
Garland One is one film from a series of six. In the films personal memories and stories surrounding historical figures that Wilcox has reshaped for his own purposes are loosely strung together like a garland. In Garland One we first see shaky, hand-held camera images of vague landscapes and snapshots from a family album: an elegy for the artist’s deceased stepmother. This is followed by the story of the slaughter of the Romanovs, the last Russian czar and his family, a mix of historic photographs and documentary images, some staged. The film ends with a bizarre fraise des bois animation. In it tiny characters guard a strawberry plant, which finally displays its red fruit.
The title A Fair Tale is an allusion to ‘fairy tale’, and literally means a carnival story. In it the artist tells about an excursion to a town fair with his parents and their ‘hippie friends’ in 1972. The then seven-year-old narrator is overwhelmed by the attractions: the Ferris wheel, the pig race, and a rain dance by ‘Native Americans’. In the middle of the performance a parachute jumper unexpectedly lands in the fair. Gigantic clouds of parachute silk descend over the spectators. The little boy panics as he tries to find his way out from under the cloth. Before anything untoward happens he is lifted out of the billowing silk by a self-controlled arm: the boy’s heroic rescuer is no one less than the Indian chief.
T.J. Wilcox was born in 1965 in Seattle. He lives and works in New York. Since 1996 he has built up a modest oeuvre of about fifteen film works. Wilcox' work has been seen in important art institutions such as the ICA in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and the Tate Modern in London. In 2005 the British magazine After All devoted a special issue to his work. In the same year the American periodical Artforum proclaimed his Garland series ‘the best of 2005’. A hefty monograph devoted to Wilcox was brought out by the Swiss publisher JRP/Ringier in 2006.
Docking Station is the new project space of Stedelijk Museum CS. Its rapidly changing presentations devote attention to new international talent. Presentations by Ryan Gander, Enrico David, Mario Garcia Torres, Melvin Moti and Florian Pumhösl and others can be expected through 2007.