Our relationship with screen culture has dramatically changed. Much of our daily interaction with others, our community and culture is mediated through screens. Increasingly, the way we relate to other bodies is via technological devices. These interactions and representations frame our world-view, informing our self-perception and social constructions.
The Internet has become a space where we can claim and narrate our screen bodies. This virtual space has the potential to offer resistance to normative representations of the body, creating bodies outside the hegemonic logic and disrupting the shared social ideal reflected around us. Sadly however, it can also further reinforce binary and simplistic readings of what the body “should” look like. These body ideals are repeated and strengthened through self-policing, as well as shaming those that have “failed” to meet the current standards, placing blame on the individual for their perceived deficiencies. Just read the comments sections!
Indisposed teases out notions of the body presented for public consumption. At once avowing and disavowing; revealing and hiding; constructing and deconstructing; our body reanimation is tinged with contradictions. Through performance, Cassandra Tytler enacts a character wrestling with what her body means to her and to others through her own representation of it televisually. She uses performativity, humour and pathos as tools to draw out ideas of self-representation, body hatred, body perfection, and how screen personas are an articulation of who we are and atonement for what we are not.
Edited by Morgana Mountfort-Davies
I’m Ugly, 2016; HD Video loop, 6 minutes, 16:9, Sound
(Camera: Robert Harding; Sound: Jake Moore)
Hey Guys, 2016; HD Video loop, 13 minutes, 16:9, Sound
(Music: Adam Selzer, Charmed Life; Honey Larochelle, Hijack, Aabo Remix, From The Free Music Archive, NC)
Monkey Suit, 2016; HD Video loop, 8’25” minutes, 16:9, Sound
(Camera: Julien Devin, Music: The Pixies, Gigantic; Sonic Youth, Kissability; The Plasmatics, Monkey Suit)
There’s Something, 2016; HD Video loop, 8 minutes, 16:9, Sound
(Sound: Jake Moore)
It’s Me, 2016; HD Video loop, 6 minutes, 16:9, Sound
(Costume: Marina Thomson; Sound: Jake Moore)
Squash, 2016; HD Video loop, 8’46”, 16:9, Sound
(Music: Gus Franklin)
Wobble, 2016; HD Video loop, 3’26”, 16:9, Sound
(Music: Gus Franklin)
I’m Sorry positions the viewer inside a mock domestic setting with two windows on either side of them. The sound of footsteps can be heard circling the space. Suddenly a figure starts knocking at one window. They keep saying “I’m sorry”, knocking as if they want to be let in. They walk around the space (footsteps circle the viewer) to the next window and knock while apologizing. As time goes on the apologies become more and more aggressive and the knocking more violent.
There is a dark undercurrent to this piece that explores the monstrousness in machismo culture that plays out and has its victims within the domestic space. The viewer is in the position of being ‘domestified’ and under attack. This is both a darker exploration of gender play and a theatre of performance. I myself perform as the man at the window in order to highlight that this person is wearing the “mask of masculinity”; a performative guise that exists, not through an essentialist idea of what it is to be a man, but a dangerous reification pushed upon us within the Australian hegemony. It should be noted that while I’m Sorry is about domestic abuse, that the viewers inside the space are of all genders. Everyone is a victim.
Review by Philip Brophy, published in RealTime Arts
The elastic spring, the tired sag, and the face we just can’t shake. We are trapped inside ourselves and outside each other. In Lunar Swells, Cassandra Tytler performs through a latex mask caste from her own face in order to visually explore the social identity mask; the face we “put on” and struggle to live through. Haunting and beautiful, restrictive to the point of asphyxiation, Lunar Swells enacts the struggle of presenting our face to the world.
Screening at Melbourne Central Art Loop, Lonsdale St Entrance from Nov 5th, 2016. Curated by MARS Gallery, Melbourne.
Also screening in public spaces as part of Carne Neuva, Argentina from October 2016-January 2017.
Thwack uses video-based performance and persona to explore a character’s endurance after a stressed encounter in a fraught environment. Tytler creates a character in a puzzling situation of post-violence. The recovery from a physical fight is the metaphorical context that is used to highlight the female body as a site for violence both literally and figuratively in our culture and the apathy we have in confronting it.
Interview with Katie Louise Paine: http://www.katielouisepaine.com/cassandra-tytler/
In contemporary times the self can be morphed, copied, coded and re-presented. Does this mean that our sense of identity comes down to the reflected image alone? Are bodies lumbering, useless vessels, that represent nothing but blood and guts? Is our identity formed only by our online presence; our likes, our dislikes, our favourites? Have we become the passwords we choose and the questions used to identify the “real” us behind the computer screen? We ask ourselves, not only what next, but what came before, and who am I? Fiona battles herself and she who has become her.
Applause is a video performance piece that explores the menace of group power dynamics, the ridiculousness of drunkenness, and the strangeness that exists between the two. Tytler, herself the performer, pushes her body to the limits of alcohol consumption. She weaves an inebriated dance amongst the bottle waving men in her video. She performs both a dance of the id - stumbling, falling, laughing and never halting gulp after gulp of alcohol, and also the passive receptacle of peer and sexual pressure, wanting to please. While arch in nature, this performance piece presents a situation that is both pernicious and celebratory.
Messed Up Pop Song is focused on the fine line between spectatorship and imitation, exploring how we watch people on-screen and identify with them - as a fan, in lust, in camaraderie. The film questions the narcissism inherent in watching: How do we see ourselves? How do we wish we saw ourselves, what are we attracted to? In our engagement with the character’s projected self-image, we watch their confused attempt to be something else, as we pay witness to their on-screen failure.
A video installation, Exhibited Gallery Titanik, Turku, Finland
This idea is born primarily from my interest in the schizophrenic representations of female sexuality within our popular culture, be they sexy, alluring, shameful, horrific, dangerous, infantile, crazy, excessive or out of control. I am referencing the figure of the 50 foot Woman, which is now a cliché in itself. The dual representations of this figure as being scared and scary, possessing a powerful sexuality while also being possessed by it, being self-pitying and vengeful, is interesting to me because this is a representation of the excessive woman, born from the questions continually raised through a glut of representations. The ‘monstrous feminine’ whose anger, distress, sadness, shame and sexuality has made her something to be feared. It also lends from the King Kong cliché of the ‘other’, come to attack a world that has no place for it or cannot contain it.
I approached the video as a performance piece, where I tried to play out a range of female roles that we know well. Angry and vengeful, coquettish and girly, drunk and tantrum throwing. I was thinking of different female figures from Pamela Anderson, to Paris Hilton to Linda Blair in the Exorcist. I wanted to make my look excessive, pushing the cliché to its banality. So it was necessary to have big blond hair and a shiny red torn dress.
The video that we see “through the window” in the first space, uses the same look of big blond hair, but it looks like she could be naked. This is meant to be “sexy manufactured”, but also excessive. Viewers may be titillated or laugh at this woman in the window or both, but they are not threatened by her. It isn’t until they enter the destruction of the next room, that they realise what has been created.
I am performing a figure dripping in cultural agenda, while never absolutely answering itself except for the lone cry at everyone: “I Warned You”.
People enter the first part of the space, which has been sectioned off by a wall. On the wall is a video monitor with a blond woman, looking out of the screen in an overly sexual way, enticing viewers into the screen/other room. In the other part of the exhibition space is a giant woman towering over a small city scape which is half destroyed. The giant woman is a video projected onto a thin surface, which cuts through the city, hanging from the ceiling to the floor. The miniature city is part of the installation, not the video. Buildings have crumbled, and lights flash in the interiors of the destroyed city.
Perilous, Pliable, Projected. Catalogue essay by Philip Brophy
Just as no amount of hi-tech wig design and fast-cutting stunt-double trickery could save John Travolta and Nicolas Cage in Face/Off (1997) from appearing like your dad doing bad kung-fu tumble-rolls at the local petrol station, no amount of digital posting could ‘de-impress’ the wire work supporting Angelina Jolie’s lithe latexed body in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). While dumb American’s insist on their pre-fabricated ‘dreams’ being ‘utterly realistic’ in the vicarious script-doctored nocturnal emissions screening in their collective cine-consciousness, they seem consistently blind to the material reality of the poseable doll-like figures parading as heroes and heroines in their cine-dreams. Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft looks like a suburban secretary who has recently bought a Gloria Estefan Best Of CD doing rock-climbing on a hens’ night organized by 11 year old boys masturbating to secret camera footage of Angelina’s antics. Like all pliable idols, she does not strike a pose like Madonna: she is incessantly posed, held in place by World of Warcraft-playing slobs with bad breath who excrete their hi-tech compositing in cramped offices doing out-sourced work for major Hollywood studios.
Those guys – like the audiences who drool over the likes of Angelina – would probably laugh at the ‘B-Grade’ effects in seminal 50s movies like Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) without realizing that they are ‘future-fitting’ ‘B-Grade’ fare for future generations (or for those of us who thought The Matrix was crud when it came out). The saving grace of the idol/figurine projected into fantastic movie scenarios – especially when their situation is utterly impossible – is that they can reveal the material reality of their production while implausibly emoting a reaction to their un-actual situation. Allison Hayes in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman looks like a 50s housewife on valium, slowly moving with vague motivation, never being clear on her actions and never convincingly destroying anything in her reach. She lunges like in a waking dream, half there, half-somewhere else. The cardboard around her wobbles in slo-mo; the slo-mo camera work prevents her from speaking, rendering her as a mysterious maternal mute of America’s post-war somnambulism .
Cassandra Tytler’s I Warned You highlights these schisms of unconvincing projection combined with delusional intent – particularly as depicted by the lineage of perilous Paulines acting melodramatically in non-threatening situations. As Cassandra beckons, cajoles, stomps and admonishes, we wonder what we did to anger her. What is this world of hers in which we are implicated? Well, if you can’t work that out, it’s your problem: you were warned.
Philip Brophy May 2011
You know the moment. The one where the actor tells you how it is. How they feel and why they feel. The moment that touches you, sometimes against your better judgement, a tug at the heart strings, a rising in your chest or anger in your bones. The actor’s moment to shine, where the home-truths told can show their emotional range.
What I want to say … What I’m trying to say, is a distillation of the essence of cinematic language. It explores moments of film monologue that can work as a breath in the narrative and reveal a filmic code that lets us ponder the film’s bigger themes of love, hate, jealousy or selflessness behind the story. We ask ourselves what we would do in this situation, how would we act, what decisions would we make?
In What I want to say … What I’m trying to say, Cassandra Tytler continues her exploration of the artifice in popular culture and the processes of character and emotive representation. She uses performance as a tool to highlight the unreal and burlesque nature of the characters she plays.
Text written by Ian Haig:
"Two strangers meet and start up a conversation. Are they coming or going?
Something is happening or is it about to happen?
Cassandra Tytler’s piece extends her strange and slightly off kilter trash culture inspired quasi narratives featuring herself as a slightly unsettling and intense public transport user who strikes up a conversation with a stranger.
You never know quite what to make of Cassandra’s work, perverse humour, outrageous performances and bizarre narrative set ups - which is exactly how the artist wants it."
Documentation of a Video Installation, Exhibited at Metro Arts, Brisbane, Australia
Plat du jour is about the accruements of glamour and decoration, and a humorously dry celebration of this. It is pop, trash and home-made. It is about dressing up and ‘playing’ at beauty. Like Andy Warhol’s celebration of the aesthetic of surface, this piece explores a scene where all beauty is ‘man-made’.
The climax at the end of this short piece, (or the ‘money shot’ – call it what you will) in all its sweet, dripping, stickiness, is perfection on a plate. It’s the “I love you”, the chase sequence, or the falling in a hail of bullets at the end of the movies we love.
Documentation of a Video Installation. Exhibited at A.R.A.C. Maison de la Tunisie, Paris, France
Sexualised burlesque, monster beauty, feminised drag … In Where do you want me to kiss you? the creature is woman, and she is playing God. Once a young girl playing with her dollhouse, she has grown up and the serene scene of suburbia has become warped.
Where do you want me to kiss you? is both an exploration and garish interaction with the danger of female sexuality as represented in popular culture. It offers an iconic vision of femininity in the guise of the Femme Fatale. In this world, sexual representation is play and everything is a performance. Sex is murder, but the question is why. How did the men in the house die? Were they lured into her web, or were they not invited? All we have is the question: “Where do you want me to kiss you?”
A video installation that explores the figure of the femme fatale in our culture, while at the same time creating a horrific mystery around a haunted house and the aftermath of a massacre. A serene scene of suburban living is turned into a location of fear for its male inhabitants. The gallery space has video projected onto its walls of the sexy yet horrific woman repeating the same question: “Where do you want me to kiss you?” In the centre of the room, surrounded by the video, is a miniature house. The red lights throb on and off in time to the red throbbing in the video. Inside the house the figurines of men can be seen crawling along the walls, propping themselves up, or lying dead. There is blood coming from them and splashed across the walls. The sound of their groans emanates from the house. The glass is clipped, the furniture is new, the design is modern living. The men are dressed in suits.