Jordan Baseman, EF103 603, Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee. Until 23rd May 2o02
Salla Tykka, Cave, Tramway 2, Glasgow. Until 8th June 2002
Helsinki based Salla Tykka is one of a number of young Scando artists to have benefited from international exhibitions supported by the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art in recent years. At Tramway she stages a trilogy of short films exploring the transition from childhood to maturity. ‘Thriller’ introduces the broken narrative following a young girl who trapped in a log cabin in a woodland archipelago. The soundtrack and running sequences are highly reminiscent of slasher flicks such as Friday the 13th and Halloween. The film ends with the girl shooting a sheep with a shotgun. ‘Lasso’ sees a teenage girl returning from a brisk jog in the country to a house. She rings the bell to enter but gets no reply. As she walks around to the rear entrance she spies a sweaty bare-chested boy through the window skipping energetically through a lasso. She is mesmerised and weeps openly as a rousing crescendo sounds, taken from Ennino Morricone’s classic soundtrack for Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’. Heavily reminiscent of David Lynch movies and sci-fi, ‘Cave’ sees a mature woman entering a mine wherein she witnesses a group of men in working in overalls. She appears pensive and paralysed, as though she has discovered Scaramanga’s secret den. The men spot her in the darkness with a torchlight, but simply move on. Enigmatic subjectivity is the name of the game, Tykka trading heavily on metaphors of the forest and the cave as uncivilised, enchanted places in which people are subject to demonisation and animalistic sexuality. In each video the season constantly seems to be passing from winter into spring, another loaded reference to the transient cycle of life and the transition from innocence to knowledge. For some audiences, this is more Bet Lynch rather than David Lynch, Tykka’s overt seriousness and over reliance on film genre theory tipping her work towards the brink of cliché. It nevertheless has an obvious appeal to organisers of international art shows focused on a supposedly lost European humanism, and to audiences simply desperate for emotive art that might fill a gap created by flip contemporary culture. For those of a gothic disposition willing to make the leap and fill in the gaps, Tykka is an aromatic dish.
In Dundee, Philadelphia born one time Young British Artist Jordan Baseman also exhibits three video works, one of which is fortuitously titled ‘Thriller’. Baseman takes his cues from the mediated culture that informs Tykka’s work, but he is more willing to trade in irony and dark humour. Working with peripheral figures and places, Baseman’s videos raise similar issues of identity to Tykka’s work. He is nevertheless more focused on the split between the public and private self, an idea formulated by the mass media. The script of ‘Thriller’ is very obviously fashioned from fragments of a transcription of Martin Bashir’s interview with Michael Jackson. Baseman employs two young white female southern English actors to play the roles of Bashir and Jackson. The Jackson character earnestly yet unconvincingly answers questions regarding her ever whitening features, her nose job, childhood fame and how she came to gain the title ‘King of Pop’. The interview segments are punctuated by short blanks accompanied by excerpts of Jackson’s music, giving the film an upbeat vox pop feel. This flatness signals that superficiality is all pervasive. Do such interviews really penetrate the mask offered by stars such as Jackson to offer us home truths, or are such exposes really an excuse to make money from a willing public hooked on voyeurism? Are the interviewers really in control or are their questions used to the interviewee’s advantage? ‘Thriller’ is a fairly light-hearted take on the issue of whether we ever have a way of knowing or understanding what makes us different from one another. Baseman’s video works on the whole are a kind of striptease, revealing something but not everything. Like Tykka, he makes much use of the classic thriller tactics, leaving false trails and unresolved conflicts, prolonging the shelf life of his work by keeping his audience guessing.