Mark Dean (City Racing) review

|Time Out|

‘Mark Dean: City Racing’
Time Out, 7-14 Feb 1996
by Martin Herbert

Dennis Hopper is cheering himself up. ‘There is nothing to fear but fear itself’, he quotes endlessly into a tape recorder. The scene – five seconds from Wim Wenders’ film ‘The American Friend’ – has been transferred  to a video loop and is, in turn, slowed and speeded up to transform Hopper’s mood from growling determination to chipmunk optimism and back again.

Mark Dean’s sharp video/sound works are concerned with reactions to life’s scary incoherence. In the next room another stammering screen plays a multi speed loop from Wenders’ film ‘Alice in the Cities’ whose male protagonist similarly murmurs ‘I’m afraid of fear’ – horror breeding horror. This is the optimism of Beckett. The scene is bracketed by symbolic frames of a bath filling and emptying down a plughole reminiscent of a scene in ‘Psycho’. And, sure enough, Hitchcock lurks downstairs. An audio excerpt from his infamously nasty film ‘Frenzy’ plays over a clip from Hopper’s ‘Easy Rider’. On screen, a woman repeatedly mouths a phrase, a protective mantra against disappointment. In this case, a sense of hope, of overcoming, glimmers through. It’s the strongest piece here, an impressively poetic, radical reshaping of the source material.

As the characters enact their reassurance rituals, we have to wonder whether it’s really for the best. Perhaps, like Dean’s judicious editing, they are merely blocking out the sight of the bigger picture.


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