The Return of Jackie & Judy (+ Joey) reviews

|Frieze|

Mark Beasley
Frieze 68 Summer 2002 

Mark Dean: The Return of Jackie & Judy (+ Joey)
1 February – 28 March 2002
Laurent Delaye Gallery, London

For William Burroughs ‘a punk was someone who took it up the ass’. For the late Joey Ramone Punk was about ‘kicking ass’, at least musically speaking. It was an attitude, a force that kicked against middle-class complacency and avoided overt definition. Today Punk is a glitter T-shirt available from Hennes & Mauritz.

For his video installation The Return of Jackie & Judy (+ Joey) (2002) Mark Dean remixed and synched an early Ramones tune, ‘Judy is a Punk’ (1976), with archival footage of Jackie Kennedy and Judy Garland. Originally written in memoriam to two Ramones fans, the song is an endless amphetamine fuelled three-chord chorus of ‘Jackie is a punk, Judy is a runt’. Dean’s split-screen projection consists of two looped grainy images that slide through endless colour spectra. In the first of these images Jackie Kennedy, dressed in riding hat and leather gloves, sits astride a show horse. Every inch the affluent debutante, she appears at ease and in control, riding with snake-like rhythm. The second image, a clip from The Wizard of Oz (1939), reveals a young Judy Garland in pigtails and white dress. Arms outstretched, she is caught performing a balancing trick on a pigsty fence. The balancing act fails and she falls. As farm girl Dorothy, it is an unselfconscious act performed, possibly out of boredom, with her back to the camera. It is a moment of quiet endeavour that ends in an elaborate stage dive, amid a flurry of skirt, straight into the pigshit below, only to be resurrected courtesy of Dean’s digital rewind and then slowly looped ad infinitum.

Such distended and carefully selected components suggest there is meaning to be found in Dean’s bricolage. Is it an allegorical take on class and privilege? Jackie Kennedy was the undisputed queen of a country that claims no royalty. The First Lady – a title she disliked (‘it sounds like a saddle horse’) – was riding at the age of four and winning equestrian championships by the time she was five. Trapped in endless horse displays, the image reveals a public poise that countered the internal anxiety of a woman who was twice widowed. Garland too was forced to perform and first appeared on stage at the tender age of six. By the time she starred in The Wizard of Oz at the age of 17, the pressure of performing and the need to maintain her voice and physical appearance led to the prescription of psychotropic drugs such as amphetamines. Euphemistically described by the Hollywood industry as her ‘artistic medicine’, these would later lead to her death as the result of a drug overdose. Dean’s push and pull of implied meaning rub against each other, an approach that results in more questions than answers. Is he really asking us to reconsider the First Lady as a punk or the drug-crippled Garland as a runt? As public and private lives tumble into each other, interpretations arrive and dissolve in equal measure.

Dean’s work begs to be deciphered; it is an activity that stays in the mind long after the initial gut response to the soundtrack. Perhaps what is most clear and compelling is the artist’s take on risk and privilege. What is risky for one is not for the other. When Judy falls there’s no back-up, save for the rewind button; were Jackie ever to falter, it is easy to imagine the clamour of eager support. The implied relation of Judy’s failure and Jackie’s success speaks of class division, yet the lived reality of both was bitter-sweet.

Dean revels in the mechanics of manipulated experience, cranking the moods of his video to paranoiac levels. An earlier work, Goin’ Back (The Birds/The Byrds x 32 + 1) (1997), sees the actress Tippi Hedren trapped in a slow-motion loop, reliving the horror of being attacked in Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). In another, Dennis Hopper’s voice rises and falls hypnotically as he struggles with the mantra ‘there’s nothing to fear but fear itself’. Dean’s latest work again allows reentry into the celluloid moments of the past; a considered cultural mining that ponders lost energy, power and class. If Punk no longer constitutes a moral or political threat to society, then Dean’s co-opting of its questioning energy is perhaps enough. As with the fusion of Pop and political history employed in the work of Sam Durant – in particular his video work examining the fateful Rolling Stones festival at Altamont, California – Dean proposes new meanings in the fragments of the past. It is a slight yet beguiling return for Jackie, Judy and Joey. A compelling last gig.


|100 Reviews³|

Liam Gillick
100 Reviews³, Alberta Press, 2002, ISBN 3-88375-570-2

Mark Dean: The Return of Jackie & Judy (+ Joey)
1 February – 28 March 2002
Laurent Delaye Gallery, London

The ingredients of this exhibition shouldn’t amount to much. The reference points are insufficiently nimble or original. It cannot be a coincidence that this exhibition is taking place at the same time as the Warhol retrospective at Tate Modern. Yet this single presentation is a successful work. There is a critical attention to corrupted subject matter here that is counter-intuitive. The exhibition takes its elements by surprise and the recipe for its success only works when viewed as a relational tool. Here we have something based on iconography, presentation and effect that circles and collapses continually into a lulling sound and visionscape, which keeps itself and its references in constant check. Turning in on itself. Pulsing and expanding while simultaneously sucking on meaning. The shifting visual, aural, intellectual and ideological status of the work is mainly constructed and made effective by the pointed formal decision-making behind the presentation. The shifting colour tone of the video and the layered editing of the sound are straightforward techniques, but in the service of the work and in response to the source material, they sit in lucid parallel to the implications of the source and result. Judy Garland falling into a pig-sty and reversing back up and out again. Jackie Bouvier/Kennedy/Onassis riding across the video plane of a projected rectangle. The formal consideration involved in the positioning of the video projections on the wall and the careful editing and reworking of the Ramones soundtrack, ensure that issues around the passing of time and meaning are at the heart of the show. You are not left with any revised thoughts about the construction of celebrity or the potential empathy that might be evinced by dealing with Jackie Kennedy or Judy Garland or Joey Ramone for that matter. And then again you are.


|Filmwaves|

Twice Upon A Time: Notes on recent work by Mark Dean
Tamsin Dillon
Filmwaves 17, January 2002

Mark Dean makes works that often have compelling yet maddening qualities. He manipulates carefully selected bits of films, songs or texts with the precision of a surgeon. Adhering to a personal mathematical formula, he slows things down, speeds them up and orchestrates sound and vision to produce something entirely new. The results have an uncanny edge; material is recombined, traces of the original narratives are recognisable, but new meanings emerge from these juxtapositions. There is something frustrating and disconcerting in the way the films are glimpsed, masked, and in part, revealed.

The Return of Jackie & Judy (+Joey) (2001) is a projection of two adjacent, slow moving looped images. On the left a home-made movie shows Jackie Kennedy riding a horse whilst on the right, in a scene from The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland balances precariously on a fence, falls into a pigsty, rises out and backs up to begin again. The soundtrack to which the two figures move, one frame at a time, is a lyric from Judy is a Punk, a song by Joey Ramone about two Ramones fans who died in a plane crash.

The rhythm to which the two women move is dictated by a fragment of the old punk song that sounds as if it has been stretched out of shape. Dean deliberately selects iconic material for his collages – cult films, classic songs, personalities from an era when being famous meant something- and it is this factor that contributes to the sense of the uncanny. But any narrative in the work that he uses as a starting point is reduced to a looped series of moments. The narrative of the originals has become secondary to a meeting point of layers of film and sound and layer upon layer of coincidental moments across the two screens.

The double projection of The Return of Jackie & Judy (+Joey) invokes the notion of the split screen, a story telling device used in filmmaking since the silent era and very popular in the ’60s. In Scorpio Rising 2, an earlier work, the split screen is a more physical element. This is not a double projection; it is the splicing together of two feature length films with a horizontal line separating the two. Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St Matthew shows on the lower half of the screen whilst Hells Angels on Wheels, directed by Richard Rush, is playing on the top half. This ‘homage’ brings together Heaven and Hell, the mixing of religious concerns with rough and rebellious behaviour. Dean’s is not a carefully constructed linear edit though – he simply joins two film images together and makes the line where they meet, their differences, a critical feature of the work. Pasolini’s is an epic story of a common man – Jesus – whilst the Hells Angels movie raises the antics of the loutish protagonists to a heroic level. Nonetheless, compelling correspondence and resonance occurs throughout the literal opposition of heaven and hell, the biker gang of boys from hell versus Jesus’ gang of disciples and the prevalence of homoeroticism. At certain times though, in the resulting imagery, a new narrative emerges.

A selected 13 frames from the film are now part of a new book work. It also includes a section of text borrowed from Aleister Crowley, the early 20th century occultist, and another taken from Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. In this production of a book, Dean brings his primary concerns, based on the skewing of cultural references to construct new meanings, to a new format within his practice. Manipulating film, music and texts from popular culture, Dean investigates the construction of experience, the mechanisms that provoke a sense of nostalgia for example. Through the selection of classic movies, songs or soundtracks that he has appropriated, manipulated and repackaged, he delivers a sprinkling of clues that reveal a layering of arbitrary connections. His manipulations raise questions about the intention behind the originals, and remind us constantly that meaning is a construct. He creates a formal structure in which meaning can be construed by the viewer and where juxtapositions and momentary alignments of narratives allude to a seemingly coherent and larger master narrative. However, this strategy draws the viewers’ attention to each of the meta-narratives that have been partially concealed in the overlapping fold and this fold is where the work occurs. Dean’s seemingly arbitrary gesture draws the viewers’ attention to his role as both author of this new work and editor of these other found narratives. He finds meaning where the original meaning is lost.


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