Slater Bradley

By Sundell, Margaret | Artforum International, November 2000 | Go to article overview

Slater Bradley


Sundell, Margaret, Artforum International


TEAM/P.S. 1

The centerpiece of Slater Bradley's second solo show in New York was a trio of short videos simultaneously projected on three walls of Team's front room. The Laurel Tree (Beach), 2000, features actress Chloe Sevigny standing on an empty stretch of sand solemnly intoning a passage from Thomas Mann's Tonio Kroger. The text--a lofty meditation on the sanctity of art and the sins of dilettantism--recounts a professional writer's profound embarrassment during a lieutenant's impromptu poetry recital at a dinner party. In Female Gargoyle, 2000, Mann's army officer--the average man who rises from anonymity to seize his moment in the spotlight, with potentially disastrous results--is embodied by a tattooed redhead. Beneath a band at the top of the frame that proclaims Bradley's tape to be an "amateur video," the woman shows us her profile in the familiar pose of someone who is aware of being watched pretending to be alone. The next shot, taken from a much greater distance, reveals that she is perched on the ledge of a building, contemplating a fatal descent. Across the room, JFK JR., 1999, filmed the day after the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, surreptitiously followed a preteen girl waiting to add her flower to the growing memorial outside the couple's Tribeca loft. The video ends when the girl suddenly senses Bradley's presence and looks directly into the camera.

Although conceived independently and ranging in style from carefully crafted to off-the-cuff, Bradley's videos share an engagement with tragedy, celebrity, and public display. To this typically Warholian mix, the twenty-five-year-old artist adds an idiosyncatic interest in compassion and its capacity to transform our voyeuristic impulses into meaningful acts of commemoration. Viewed as an ensemble, the three works play off one another, establishing a polyphonic dialogue between varied instances of empathy, entitlement, and anguish. As separate pieces, however, they don't quite hold up, each exhibiting a higher degree of potential than internal resolution. …

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