Magazine article Artforum International

Nicholas and Sheila Pye: Curator's Office

Magazine article Artforum International

Nicholas and Sheila Pye: Curator's Office

Article excerpt

The influence of Bertolt Brecht, the Brothers Grimm, and Eugene Ionesco permeates the substance and style of Nicholas and Sheila Pye's recent video Loudly, Death Unties, 2007, presented at Curator's Office with five of the artists' photographs. The work completes a deeply absorbing, richly symbolic trilogy, including the films The Paper Wall, 2004, and A Life of Errors, 2006, which chronicles a trio of destructive relationships between men and women.

Common to the three works are dreary tenement-like sets--with bare wooden floors, peeling floral wallpaper, chipped paint, and scant furniture--which form a backdrop for the artists' wordless interactions, composed of measured gestures and movements. The color throughout is wan and muted, the mood and electronic music portentous. Edward Albee-like identities take the place of proper names: "Brother" and "Sister" in the first film; "Man" and "Woman" in the second; and "Young Man" and "Young Woman" in the last. But the exact nature of these relationships--save the suggested incest in The Paper Wall--remains oblique, although scenes with upended furniture and shattered crockery suggest past violence, as do the actors' occasional displaying of bruises and cuts. Also unknown is whether the films are autobiographical. Sheila says they are, though very stylized, calling them allegorical approaches to the relationship; Nicholas disagrees.

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Loudly, Death Unties expands on the ground laid by the trilogy's first two works. The film is shot in high-definition video rather than the 16-mm format used in the artists' earlier work, and includes, in addition to a third actor, hints at character development and emotion. Most significantly, the Pyes enrich the narrative with the addition of mysticism, based on Celtic mythology, and they introduce outdoor sequences for the first time. …

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