Stella (2004) 2 channel Video/Music Installation 5.50 min

(40 sec SD preview)

"Stella (2004) comes in two parts. Part one begins with two girls bouncing up and down against a black background on what is probably a trampoline. Slow motion and a Debussy-ish piano score of tumbling scales and arpeggios (specially composed and performed by the artist) combine to suggest the intoxicating fun they are having. However, we soon discover this is not just the Billy Elliot-ish fun of bouncing up and down; it’s also the joy of simply being together. They clearly find each other irresistible. And this is confirmed by the closing scene where the two of them are shown sitting on the ground, gazing into each other’s eyes.So what is their relationship? Are they lovers? Are they identical sisters? Is one of them the doppelgänger of the other -the kind of perfect imaginary friend that some children like to invent? Certainly, although they wear different coloured T-shirts and leggings, in many ways they seem uncannily alike. Before we can get any answers, however, the second part of the piece on the wall opposite starts up.The lack of a sound track in part two seems to confirm that the young woman whose face we watch has a very different mood. Like the ‘girls’ in part one this character is also played by the artist. However, this is not immediately apparent. On the contrary, initially she seems happy enough to be the object of another’s (the viewer’s) gaze as she walks along. Her jewellery, hair and make-up suggest she is at an event of some kind, a film premiere perhaps, and she’s confident she’s looking good. Gradually though we realize she finds the viewer’s attentions intrusive, even threatening and the second part of the work ends with her in obvious distress walking faster and faster, and finally breaking into a run, in a desperate attempt to escape.It might seem therefore from this description that Stella is a pretty straightforward exercise in fetishistic scopophilia, albeit the narrative in each part remains unresolved. Indeed, the moment when terrified and tearful the young woman tries to hide from view might be seen as distinctly Hitchcockian in character. However, it does not come across like that. This is mostly because of the way the two parts are projected: not in a conventional manner but one after another, on opposite walls of the gallery. For what this does is ensure that at a certain moment we are obliged to turn and face in a new direction: a simple device but one that means that we feel estranged from the narrative; we have to engage with it in a way which is active rather than passive."

Extract from the essay Video/Music by Paul Usherwood.

Installation sketch

stills from projection 1

stills from projection 2

© Dodda Maggý