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When fact meets fiction, the fall-out is often sensational. WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE chews on media manipulation and our appetite for catastrophic culture. Words: Susanna Beaumont
As media diets go. the one John Waters feeds on is heavy on the mags. Over 80 subscriptions hit his coffee table. Hi-gloss heavyweights — Vogue. Vanity Fair -- through to the gossip-mauling National Enquirer and the flesh- exposing Playboy are chewed over by the filmmaker. No wonder William Burroughs dubbed the maker of Pink Flamingos and Hairs/wry ‘the Pope of Trash’. The epitome of a late 20th century media junkie. Waters has no shame in getting high on column inches. and he often regurgitates what he takes in. Another of Waters’ sobriquets is ‘Prince of Puke‘.
Back in 1966. when the US was still digesting the 1963 assassination of President John F Kennedy. Waters delivered one of his 'little movies’. Zapruder was a re-enactment of the Dallas killing. with the outsize. high camp Divine taking the part of the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. Divine even wore a replica of the famous pink suit and pill box hat.
‘lt tested the limits of tastelessness. how close to the bone you could go.‘ says Tanya Leighton. curator of When Worlds Collide at Glasgow’s CCA. Turning the spotlight on the intimate relationship between film and art. fact and fiction. the exhibition gets under the hype and throws question marks at how both
'It tested the limits of tastelessness, how close to the bone you could go.’
Tanya Leighton on John Waters' Zapruder
Still from Johan Grimonprezs' Dial H-l-S-T-O-R-Y
media and art mediate reality. Stills from Zapruder
are on show alongside Movie Star Jesus. a collection of stills of various celluloid Jesuses through the ages. which are arranged in the shape of the cross. You get the feeling that Waters is more than nudging the notion of Christ as a bearded chap with wistful eyes.
Perhaps the most seductive work of the show is Belgian artist Johan Grimonprez’s Dial H-I-S-T-U-R-lf A video-film chronology of airline hijacks gleaned from newsreels and amateur and security videos over the decades. it knocked out audiences at last year‘s big art show. Documenta. This is true terror on the tarmac. Faces crippled with fear as masked gunmen shoot and stalk the aisles of 747s.
‘It is totally captivating.‘ says Leighton. ‘and raises all the issues of popular imagery and questions of history.‘ With a soundtrack inspired by American writer Don Del.illo's White Noise and Mao II. the footage mesmerises as it moves from Beirut to Tokyo via Tel Aviv and Algiers. A heady mix of horror and thrills. there is an unnerving sense of a snuff movie diluted.
There is real death. but it is riveting. Hijackers bargain as captains request medical crews and sandwiches. Politics are played by world leaders who weigh up potential loss of life and political street cred. To put it simply in the words of Gi‘imonpt'el. it ‘highlights the value of the spectacular in our catastrophic culture‘.
When Worlds Collide is at CCA, Glasgow, Sat 13 Jun—Sat 25 Jul. Forum: Reality And Representation with Johan Grimonprez, plus Chrissy lles (curator of film 8: video, Whitney Museum, New York) and others Sat 13 Jun, 2pm. £2/1. The BBC documentary, The Late Show - Zapruder will be screened at CCA. Glasgow on Sun 28 Jun 8: Sat 25 Jul, 1pm.
Overheard from behind the installation.
DUNDEE CONTEMPORARY ARTS' ad campaign is really heating up. Over the last year Dundee's new multi-art centre in-the-making has whetted the appetite with a series of ads in the cultural mag, Freize. Featuring images of boats and combine harvesters, the ads seem delightfully obscure with endearing rural overtones. Now in the latest instalment we see the space in question. Still under construction, the cavernous interior needs a good lick of white paint, but if all goes to plan, the arts centre will be opening in October.
TALKING OF GALLERY spaces. Glasgow's vast Tramway is soon to close for a major refit. This one-time tram depot is shutting its doors on 4 July for five months to have its roof rebuilt. A £3 million project, with £2.3 coming from the Scottish Art Council Lottery fund, the revamp will also see the insertion of an 'internal street' running between the spaces, a mezzanine level and, joy of joys, the removal of the draughty portakabin loos at the back of the building and the construction of more pleasant interior conveniences. ZOO, the young Glasgow firm of architects, has been signed up for the job. Tramway will be open in various stages of refit in 1999, but reopens in full in November 1999.
DAY-TRIPPERS MAY find the sun 3 little elusive, but how about a day out to Helensburgh? And, in particular, a couple of Ministry Of Defence dwellings. Through negotiation and persuasion, artists Rachel Mimiec, Mhairi Sutherland and Karen Vaughan have secured the loan of two Naval dwellings for a project entitled Muster. Referring to the system of inspection carried out when a Naval family moves out of its quarters, six artists have taken over the quarters to show work. As the first part of a project entitled Not In Kansas, this new visual arts organisation is setting out to promote work of artists based in Scotland. For further info call 0141 339 9962
Naval gazing: a portrait by Moira Mclnver inspired by a Isabelle Gunn, a 19th century female sailor from the Orkney Isles