VIDEO AND IMAGE GALLERY
Shot on location in Bedford, UK from September 15-18, 2008, the week the global markets went into free fall, Jenny Rogers' PERFECT SURF is the global economic meltdown staged as a surf spectacle -- a free fly competition in the world's largest wind tunnel.
Performed by the top free flyers from all over the world (Austria, Australia, England, France, Spain, South Africa & the U.S.), Wall Street becomes Surf City complete with the actual soundtrack from the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) that fateful week. A modern experimental re-interpretation of the surf classic "The Endless Summer", PERFECT SURF completes the search for the perfect wave, finding endless summertime and eternal youth through the alchemy of science & cinema. Paradise is found here in the surf scene,in flight and in the promise of the endless free fall—HAIR in AIR; beach party film meets sci-fi flick; CinemaScope meets HD digital video in the world’s largest wind tunnel.
Surfers, like traders in the Stock Market, are in pursuit of the unattainable perfect ride, the endless high that never ends. In 1975, Louis Turner and John Ash wrote in The Golden Hordes: International Tourism and the Pleasure Periphery, “In a world dominated by bureaucracies and machines, we are offered these destinations as retreats to a childlike world in which the sun always shines, and we can gratify all our desires.” Our modern equivalent to the sun-kissed destinations displayed in films like “The Endless Summer” has been the global marketplace and our self consuming desire for unattainable wealth as exemplified in the “go-go” days of stock market inflation, IPOs, and “economic prosperity” like waves of endless cycles of asset inflation, burst bubbles and their subsequent crashes to earth.
As a metaphor for existence, PERFECT SURF, suspends our bodies in space, free falling yet able to stay afloat. The film as reality, digitally encoded, also acts as a layer of time/space suspension capturing these movements that remain in limbo forever. The tunnel (the tube) is the liminal space. In a perfectly hermetically sealed tube where the wind is precisely calibrated to match your height and weight, one could conceivable ride forever.
PERFECT SURF is a surf elegy for our modern age. It is surf without the romance- no water, no skin, no sand and no surfboards. We are all awash in this crisis of capital, one must sink or swim. Surf's up.
Taking as its jumping off point, the sport of bodyflight and the history of popular American cinema, PERFECT SURF utilizes the mediums of air and art to explore the relationship of the body in motion, filming the tunnel divers in free falls, riding waves of air like surfers on the open ocean.
Like hippies, or nomadic gypsies, tunnel divers are our modern surf bums. They travel around the world in search of the best waves, hitting the best tunnels, working as instructors in exchange for tunnel time. Bodyflight Bedford, where PERFECT SURF was shot, is the largest such wind tunnel facility in the world, measuring 16.25 feet at its diameter with a flight area of 26.25 feet tall. All the flyers agreed to participate in this piece in exchange for four glorious days of tunnel time.
Most vertical wind tunnels were originally constructed in the 1940's & 1950's by Defense Departments to study aircraft tolerances and extreme aerodynamic conditions. Today, these abandoned research facilities have seen new life as modern recreation centers where humans have at last realized a primal desire-- to fly.
I had received a $25,000 grant from the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA) to fund the piece and assembled a team of the best skydivers in the world to meet me at the world’s largest wind tunnel. I met this global team--flyers from Austria, Australia, England, France, Spain, South Africa and the U.S. --in the U.K., and we had this incredible first day of art making inside the closed, free fall environment of the tunnel.
At the end of the first day of shooting, we emerged to find that capitalism had collapsed and global markets were in free fall. I was stunned to find that the initial conceptual idea for the piece was occurring quite literally all around us. World market corrections coincided with the filming of the piece over the course of that week. I feel really blessed to have been able to spend that week engaged in a joyous collaborative process of art making during a time of so much anxiety, fear and chaos.
VIDEO AND IMAGE GALLERY
Created as a site-specific installation, Trick Saddle, sets a Spaghetti Western underwater to critique the absurdity of gender roles— “masculinity” staged as a synchronized underwater cowboy ballet. Originally shot in digital video, the film was later transferred to 35mm so that it could be screened as a drive-in movie. It debuted at the dilapated Starlite Drive-In, located in State College, Pennsylvania, where the film was accompanied by 20 female performers, dancing live on the hoods of cars under the big screen. Trick Saddle was later developed into a full length theatrical piece so we could bring the drive-in indoors in New York City.
Set in a ghost town at the bottom of a swimming pool, the film features “the Seven Syncros,” a synchronized swim team, in full cowboy attire - chaps, hats, & masculine bravado- performing ritualized archetypal movements and scenes from the dying & desperate culture of Western movies—the gunfight, the bar room brawl, the hanging & the rogue posse on the move across the desert.
Inspired by the stylized movements in old Buck Jones & Tom Mix films, Trick Saddle explores the Western as a form of modern dance. Water is employed as a way of immersing the action in a never-ending slo-mo. As seen in Sam Peckinpaw films, slow motion within the Western elevates all motion above the narrative moment.
By flipping gender roles and immersing cowboy bravado in water, the masculine cool is displaced in an environment where it is impossible to be stoically cool, in fact, where it is a struggle to make any move at all. The piece plays out as a series of ritualized stoic poses— vignettes that simultaneously camp masculinity as defined by the Western and dramatize the difficulty of being a woman in a culture where the body is always awash in gender codes.
Like the Drive-In, itself, the Cowboy myth is a decaying piece of Americana in desperate need of a makeover. Animated by the classic recordings of Spaghetti Western composer, Ennio Morricone, Trick Saddle is a fractured western with a gender twist that turns cowboy mythology inside out & upside down. It’s Busby Berkeley meets classic cowboy flick, Wild West meets Esther Williams. Trick Saddle is a feminist assault on the Spaghetti Western and a cinematic reinterpretation of the classic hero—these gender-benders put the myth out of its misery in campy style. Gender is a trick -- it’s the saddle you wear and the saddle you ride. Ride on.
Trick Saddle is a permanent part of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection and was featured in the PS 1 / MoMA Greater New York 2005 Exhibition.
VIDEO AND IMAGE GALLERY
The Range Series drawings, inspired by the cinematic climax of the film The Last Picture Show, revisits the death scene of cinema itself. Within the movie, The Last Picture Show, we are witness to the death of a small Texas town as symbolized by the closing of its movie house. In the theater’s final screening, we see a short scene from the movie, Red River, savored by the town’s few remaining residents. In it, cowboy's cattle call, like talking heads in extreme close-up, to start the long cattle drive in a movie about progress and movement, laid within a movie about decline and inertia. My drawings, like a movie still, are frames frozen in time, caught somewhere between ecstasy and agony. They act as artistic remnants of our own psychological ambivalence – we are the West, both projected hero and fallen icon. Somewhere between pleasure and pain, these images flicker forever in the psyche-- manifest as a shimmering, mirage-like myth in the cultural imaginary.
VIDEO AND IMAGE GALLERY
A drawl marks you, whether intentionally or not, as having a geographic past, with all the associative baggage that locale carries. This slow inflection can surface unexpectedly, even after a long absence from the place of its origin. Some may work diligently to remove this mark, only to find later that they somehow miss its enduring familiar.
My sand drawings, drawlings, are elegies of loss and absence. Each image formed through its own displacement, lines formed through the removal of sand, laments the condition of its exile. Each drawing is a moment rooted in rootlessness. Simultaneously, it represents the speed with which the mark is made and the ease with which it can be erased. We are like grains of sand upon a field, gathering in pockets, only to be subject to our inevitable displacement. My drawlings embody a moment of transformation. Their movement elegizes the erosion of the land, the whip of wind that scatters dust. They depict the presence of a shadow, the play of light through air, the threadbare homestead no longer in existence, a drawing based on the blurred photograph you barely recall.
In their fragility, these drawings reflect our own flimsy casing, each surface a transparent skin. Like celluloid, they act as a screen for our own psychological projections-- an atmosphere colored and clouded by ambivalence. Drawlings examine the residuals of experience, the complex nature of our own mortality. They embody the hometown you cannot return to, the place that was yours, now in memory more intimately possessed.
This work seeks to create a landscape in sand, which speaks of its own personal history, migration, the passage of time and memory’s melancholic effects. The “past” states Stuart Hall is “always constructed through memory, fantasy, narrative and myth.” Drawlings, like cultural identities, function as shifting, unstable points within a larger historical framework. In its deterioration, the drawing, itself, will be reduced in the end to a ghost; the body reduced to ash. What you remember of the piece, ultimately is what you are left with – a living presence, an imprint of the past.