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candice breitz

Him + Her

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
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candice breitz: him + her


“Within any consciousness there is a Greek chorus, a mess of intertwined voices.” — Candice Breitz
(quoted in Hilarie M. Sheets, “Clip Art,” ArtNews February 2009, p. 88)

Twenty-eight Meryl Streeps and twenty-three Jack Nicholsons appear intermittently across the fourteen monitors and two darkened rooms that comprise South African-born, Berlin-based, artist Candice

Breitz’s 2008 video installation Him + Her. Plucked from Streep’s vast filmography between 1978–2008, and Nicholson’s comprehensive cast of characters throughout his forty-year career to 2008, the clips presented in Him + Her were carefully edited and digitally stitched onto a neutral black screen from which the iconic actors deliver lines resonating with neurotic temperament. Breitz is recognized internationally for her videos that appropriate from Hollywood, Bollywood, MTV and other mainstream sources to reflect upon the cultural resonance of the mass media in relation to broader themes of identity, human subjectivity and psychology. To make Him + Her Breitz dedicated herself to a careful analysis of Nicholson and Streep films over an eight-month period during which she noticed recurrent behavioral tropes in each actor’s various cinematic roles. The resulting installation places seven screens of Nicholson and seven screens of Streep in separate quarters, each delivering and grappling with respective and introspective dialogues on human fragility, vulnerability and, in the male actor’s case, a near schizophrenic narcissism. “During the early stages of the editing, it was astounding how a whole slew of clichés about masculinity and femininity came rushing to the surface,” Breitz explained. Rather than avoiding these stereotypes, Him + Her is based entirely upon them. Over the course of viewing, the work’s protagonists undergo a transformation from iconic faces recognizable through the characters they play, to gender types attributable to the words they say. Jack and Meryl become male and female; him and her; fodder for their own popular representations scripted and established over the course of these actors’ storied careers.