The advent of film and television has redefined the way we approach and understand culture, from the popular to the fine arts. Arguably the last century has witnessed the materialization, spread, and ubiquity of Clement Greenberg’s frightful “ersatz” culture, of the duplicate, and of nearly all other cultural ‘abominations’ he wrote about . Remakes, reruns, covers, memes, are more than ever part of our cultural fabric, and flows into the fine arts by means of appropriation, kitsch endeavours, collage, to name but an established few. In addition, an obvious think-tank of pop-cultural cannons has established itself alongside video media – Hollywood. As expected, many artists have naturalized filmic vocabulary into their art practices. At the same time, concerns about the relationship between art and its viewers have taken a prominent position in contemporary artistic discourse.
In some respects, Canadian artist Kelly Mark is an artist interested both in the vocabulary of video and in conceptual relational concerns. In this light, my essay will discuss Mark’s 2010 video work “Public Disturbance: HB Series: Take 1/ Take 2/ Take 3”, a filmed performance featuring two actors infiltrating Toronto’s 2010 Power Ball fundraiser and reciting movie lines. First, I will describe the work; then I will take a two-pronged reading of the piece. The first will be concerned with various social commentaries while the second will discuss relational aspects of the work. Note that in this essay, bibliographical references are identified by superscripted numbers that refer to endnotes. Footnotes are denoted by superscripted letters and contain additional information concerning works by Mark. HB Series is shown at Montreal’s Darling Foundry until April, 2011.
Kelly Mark is a prolific contemporary artist whose work is almost entirely preoccupied with the mundane and repetitive, often to humourous effect . Her early conceptual works involve, for example, hitting pieces of metal against each other thousands of times, counting grains of salt, or carrying conversations with monuments. Over the last 15 years, her corpus has developed a strong leaning towards video and photography. More precisely, Mark has become more and more absorbed by the presence of television and film in her personal life, and by extent to its presence at large . She has re-edited, re-filmed, and otherwise re-used thousands of hours of television and film programming in art works, and has produced several video performances.
In “HB Series”, Mark has hired two professional actors to infiltrate Toronto’s Power Ball and recite a clichéd conversation pieced together from various Hollywood films, predominantly from “Hurly Burly”, a 1998 film that the Internet Movie Database describes as a movie about “Hollywood movers and shakers” who “dissect their own personal lives when everything seems to clash together”. In each ‘Take”, the actors play out the same scene, but in different areas of the...