Visual Arts: The Second Blow


Gian Manik

Black and Blue Gallery

October 16 – 31

Gian Manik’s current solo exhibition is a freeze frame of that moment in horror film where the heroine, now bloodied and brutalised, has momentarily escaped her captor, only to be hiding in the shadows of a street -corner or the family home. He’s close enough that she can hear his breath and she’s waiting for The Second Blow.

As spectators, we are torn between our desire for her safety, and our desire to see all hell break loose in a visual testament to the basest of human cruelties and sadistic play and Manik’s works divide us similarly. Conventions of traditional horror cinema are explored and fragmented in The Second Blow – the pieces installed strategically, almost as a time-lapse set-up where the props wait menacingly, their visual summation a cue to the savagery that follows. The body is presented in parts, or else obscured – blood-matted hair in 2nd, a severed finger in Baby Blow and a kangaroo-fur clad man, who crawls laboriously across the earth in Guise. The latter I found particularly evocative, however puzzling. It’s clumsy paddle–shaped fingers, and featureless face made all the more terrifying, this monstrosity of nature that was most probably clothed in fur out of necessity – it’s hideousness so resounding that the thing condemned itself (or else was condemned) to such a shamed existence.

This notion of the vengeful ‘Other’, in some ways will always be in some small way, an appropriation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The element of tragedy lying inherently in the monster’s own quest for understanding and compassion, which he is never granted. Betrayed by his very right to live, the monster, pitiful and alone, duplicates his physical abnormalities into actions that exact revenge. The catalogue for the exhibition suggests, ‘He [Manik] also likened his artistic process to film, his art isn’t like film, it is art so don’t get it twisted. The reference to film is a metaphor’. To pinpoint exactly what that metaphor might stand in for would require a lot more deliberation than one would have time for, so for reasons of brevity the notion of the ‘Other’ seems to be fit quite aptly.

Nevertheless the collection of works, works as just that – a collection. They unfold a narrative, which celebrates horror cinema conventions, even as Manik himself refrains from making distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ film – here they are both celebrated equally. Manik’s use of diamantes to do so could in other circumstances be interpreted as kitsch, though here they work to highlight the artificiality and the aesthetics of a genre we all know and love. The vibrancy of red blood fresh from a wound to the head and the glint of silver moonlight on a hand-axe clean before first killing (in 1st), are heightened by these tiny glinting jewels.

Manik also attempts to demystify these conventions, as in Giude to Conon, an almost ten minute video loop which revisits notions of the unspecified female victim, concealment and suspense. Played off a screen smaller than your average television, and with the DVD player also visible, Manik attempts to reduce our fears by firstly reducing the way in which we allow content to consume us. Being made aware of our viewing, we are able to divorce ourselves from the cinematic realm – our adherence to which is a common signifier of great film.

The Second Blow is the equivalent of a horror film prop room, or behind the scenes commentary from the second-in-charge CGI guy, or that chick that sometimes does the art direction. And you know the film will be ace when you can base an entire script around the knives collection, which is essentially the idea that Manik is playing with.

You will love this if: you’re into movies, gore, or glitz, or just some good old-fashioned finger hacking

You will hate this if: you think violence in TV is the cause of social corruption, human dysfunction and probably global warming. Fuck you.

The Second Bow is showing at Black and Blue Gallery (302/267-271 Cleveland St, Redfern) until October 31st.

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