Disco Maquette


Sketch, London 
23 Jul – 11 Sep 2004

view installation

exhibited works:
I Can’t See (Twisted)
Intersection (53rd & 3rd x 3)
Go Together (Grace)

reviews:
Fisun Gurner,‘Mark Dean: Disco Maquette’ Metro, 26 July 2004
Martin Coomer, ‘Mark Dean: Disco Maquette’, Time Out No.1774 July 2004
‘Pick of the Week: Mark Dean: Disco Maquette’ Guardian Guide, 28 August 2004
Ian Hunt, ‘Mark Dean’, Art Monthly no.279, September 2004
Joel Robinson, ‘London: Disco Maquette’, Art Papers, January/February 2005

catalogue essay:

Mark Dean predominantly works by culling information from previously existing cultural material – films, literature and popular music – to create his work. To Dean the original form and narrative of these sources is not something that determines his work. Some viewers will recognise the fragments of songs, the faces of actors or culled quotes and some will not. Instead he treats them like raw material. He samples tiny moments of information and weaves them together, mutating and interrelating disparate sources using coincidental linkages and similarities to generate new structures. Dean uses an explicitly mechanical vocabulary to create his work, but the results are as strangely affecting as they are mathematical in construction. He frequently references heightened states – fear, powerlessness, revulsion, ecstasy – but distends them, at once negating their sense of narrative agency whilst multiplying their temporal potency to present the viewer with hypnotic continuums that tap directly into our emotional and psychological landscapes. Disco Maquette conjures up the idea of both remixes and sculptural models. The exhibition comprises three new works – some of which remix material that previously existed as single screen videos – especially constructed by Dean to respond to the specificity of the projection configuration at Sketch. But rather than utilizing the wide-screen format that is integrated into Sketch’s Kubrick-esque interior, Dean has chosen to trade its inherent polish for a more intrusive idea of scale, showing the works in 4:3 academy ratio so that they spill untidily out of their expected frame to encroach on the high-backed benches, the top of doors and other architectural details. It is a gesture that seems to amplify the suspect atmosphere that permeates the looped triumvirate of triptychs Dean has constructed from Heavy Metal and Punk songs, B movies, Hollywood classics and German cinema.

I Can’t See (Twisted) 1999/2004 features a black and white graphic like a spiraling tunnel rotating against a black background at the centre of the triptych. On either side a mirrored and doubled black & white image of a woman wearing a vintage motorcycle helmet that echoes the central image lies on the ground, but the image has been inverted so she appears crucified on an impossible slope. As the piece progresses the spiral spins increasingly fast accompanied by the pulsing soundtrack of a man repeatedly singing “I can’t see the things that make true happiness I must be blind”. A strobe light pulses behind the speeding spiral, their frequencies clashing to create chaotic phase-changes at the centre of the triptych, and as it does, the viewer becomes aware the prone woman is breathing in time to the spiral’s revolutions whilst a pair of ragged shadows flap over her like huge wings. The piece builds and builds speed, the spiral spinning faster and faster, the shadowy wings beating and the woman’s chest heaving and falling inhumanly fast as if in some kind of diabolic ecstasy.

With its halting repetition Intersection (53rd & 3rd x 3) 2003 literally functions as a crossroads between the first and third work. Against a stop/start punk soundtrack of the phrase ‘53rd & 3rd’ being shouted 3 times a black & white triptych unfolds with a man cradling a blond girl’s head on his lap on the left and a blond woman cradling a distraught man’s head in her lap on the right, punctuated by the image of an intersection of American roads repeatedly played forwards and backwards. None of the protagonists faces are visible due to the camera angles and editing and the speculation arises that the man and young girl in the left panel may be the same couple in the right panel, their roles reversed by time. There is the sensation of something amiss in the relationship, of the exaggerated darkness of the first work dissolving into something more ambiguous but more suspect because of that.

In the final work Go Together (Grace) 1997/2004, this sensation collapses into curtailment and despair. Relocating the engine of the work to the central frame as in the first work, Go Together (Grace) is built around a loop of a woman declaring to a man “I wish I was going some place. I wish you were going some place. We could go together” against a looped backdrop of mournfully oscillating strings. Her companion sits impassive as if she is imploring the viewer rather than him, whilst on either side a glamorous woman repeatedly closes a door firmly in a man’s face as the ghost of her image kisses him on the lips. The images conspire to concoct a sense of emotional separation, of unfulfilled desires and finality. Although separate works and in themselves not narrative in nature, in Disco Maquette Dean’s three pieces build into a peculiar and rather desolate suggestion of our need for connection and our inability to find it told through the composite characters he skillfully fashions from the second-hand.

– Simon Morrissey


Documentation: