When you first walk into Fresh Arts and survey the TV screens scattered around the darkened gallery, a quick glance might give you the impression that the screens are stuck on frames of couples embracing or kissing. But upon closer inspection, it becomes steadily apparent that these are not frames, but actors holding these poses, in all their awkward glory.
|Photo courtesy of the artist|
|A still from "Duet (Faithless)" by Britt Ragsdale|
This ingenious concept is part of Britt Ragsdale's "Duets" series. The Houston artist currently has her video work up at Fresh Arts in "Playback," a show curated by Paul Middendorf of galleryHOMELAND. In four screens, Ragsdale pulls inspiration from familiar scenes out of classic films such as An Affair to Remember and Giant -- couples gazing longingly into each others' eyes, about to kiss, in a dramatic embrace. The videos are even in black and white, some softened to give it that dated, classic look.
Ragsdale uses real couples to copy these poses -- fleeting moments that the artist has stretched out into six, seven, eight, even 12 minutes. What's meant to be a romantic gesture soon becomes less-than-intimate, even pained, due to what Ragsdale describes as "intense scrutiny."
This scrutiny reveals more about human relationships than any film trope can. During the extended shots, one couple rocks slightly back and forth, another starts to pull slightly away. A man jokingly puckers his lips, while another swallows hard, his Adam's apple prominent. At the end of one video, a woman cracks her knuckles, as if relieved that the task at hand is over. Hand-holding is sweet and all, but everyone has their limits.More »