Unreal Nature

November 11, 2015

Between Fascination and Repulsion

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

Sometime in the mid-1950s, a movie company rented our house to use in a television commercial. The entire front lawn was filled up with large lights and reflectors, a crane, cameras and crew. [ … ] When they finished lighting the front of our house it was floating in a soft, miraculous glow. It was a dream house. I thought that all of the neighbors who were crowded into our driveway were there to watch our house become a movie star.

The actual filming lasted only one day and consisted of Jane Wyman, dressed as a housewife in high heels, opening the front door to greet all of the television viewers. She would whisper some mysterious words and then close the door and open it up for another take. [ … ] Again and again, pause, smile, whisper, close the door. That’s all we saw. It was a commercial for Purina dog food. — Larry Sultan

The following is from the essay ‘The Enigma of the Visible’ by Stephan Berg found in Larry Sultan (2015):

Dog at Night, Mission Hills, 1999

… What interests the artist [in The Valley] are not the more or less acrobatic acts of copulation and their stimulatory potential, but the context in which these naked images arise. This group of works attains its dialectical tension from the fact that it confronts an image-producing industry, which wants to show everything and hence by definition is committed to absolute public revelation, with a point of view which, in emphatically casual manner, seems to touch only upon the fringes of what is taking place.

Child’s Bedroom, Calabassas, 2001

[line break added] What Sultan records are the pauses in filming, the gaps, the moments of boredom and waiting. But above all it is the sites of filming themselves which become the main protagonists of The Valley. The respectable, middle-class houses with worn-and-torn couch ensembles, kitschy wall decorations, plushy children’s rooms, and carefully kept-up lawns. These are sites of everyday, middle-class domesticity which appear in The Valley as a filmic-surrealistic backdrop landscape, as the sham surrogate of a domestic coziness that long ago ceased to exist.

Cabana, 2000

[line break added] Here as well, Sultan experiences that which already made the work on Pictures from Home challenging on the one hand, but on the other hand also so aesthetically productive. “And by photographing this I’m planted squarely in the terrain of my own ambivalence — that rich and fertile field that stretches out between fascination and repulsion, desire and loss. I’m home again.”

Off Sepulveda, 2001

It’s not about porn, it’s about furniture.Larry Sultan




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