Che Vuoi? Rat Face from Oliver Smith on Vimeo.
Photo Credit: Oliver Smith
In the introduction of the book ‘The Metastases of Enjoyment’ Slavoj Zizek cleverly describes a poster from Nazi and anti-Semitic pogroms, which shows a frightened Jewish boy surrounded by Germans. The expression on the German faces covers all possible reactions, embarrassed, disgusted or scared, all are absorbed and fascinated by the situation. I’m concerned by this phenomenon; it is as if sabotaged by the ego, we’re left with an unsure sense of self that challenges our perception of free will. I believe when in this situation you begin to experience what Freud referred to as ‘the phantasmic character of trauma’ (neurosis that briefly and violently interrupts the closed equilibrium of ego).Also taken from the fore mentioned book, Zizek introduces the Freudian medical case titled, ‘The Ratman’s Face’. It is an account of patient Ernst Lanzer, that shows the obsessive’s tortured rituals embodies double-desires both sadistic and masochistic.I endeavoured to either represent the situation of desire, or deconstruct the event of experiencing the psychological condition described by using film and video within installation. Fascinated by cinema, spectacle and the effect they have on the viewer, I chose scenes that fit the psychological profile explained, I began to construct an experience from my memories of those films - Hitchcock’s shocking yet fascinating merry-go-round crash scene in Strangers On a Train; where several layers of re-creation, projection and live action come together for brief seconds to manifest in us the most dangerous character of indecision; to yield and enjoy or resist in fear. I developed film loops that fitted a square format and slowed down the speed by half, not only prolonging the viewer’s anticipation for change in the action, but also their psychological state of wanting.The video projection titled Rat Face, stages Edward G Robinson in a close-up shot of the main protagonist’s mental breakdown from the 1932 film ‘Two Seconds’, directed by Mervyn Leroy. I found the detachment from reality of the character Robinson plays in the film represents a kind of mirror, where visitors simultaneously reconstruct and deconstruct the moving image, this footage also helps the participant to redefine their relationship with the individual parts of the of the face and the projected image. Also, the action might begin to suggest the horror I associate to the psychological condition described by Freud. The merry-go-round footage is titled “Che Vuoi?” which translates as “What do you want?” It’s ultimately a question about desire that refers to the Lacanian construct posing the same question. The visitors are at first unknowing participants in a nightmarish fantasy, and are then presented with a choice of taking part in an exploration of double desires.For me the answers I have discovered through the making process for this work are that we must acknowledge and accept automatic psychological incidents, we do not have much choice in them and that we are all playing a balancing act between the tensions of the ego and the unconscious (neurosis).
Film & video