hysteria, now we have erotomania.
been said that the mental illness of the 20th century (and its
close enough to the end that I feel justified in repeating such
a pronouncement) is not schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder,
or even obsessive-compulsive disorder, but erotomania.
in the classic Freudian sense, was linked to the repression of
homosexual urges. The erotomaniac, unable to say I
love x but x doesn't love me, instead said x
loves me and this attention is unwelcome. Of course
it is psychically helpful if x is a famous person — the
delusion could continue with little chance of resolution. But
now, in the last half of the 20th century, the repression need
not be homosexual. Instead the erotomaniac represses the shameful
fact that they are not fabulous enough to have their own tv show.
So it's more of a class thing than a sexual identity thing.
waiting room in Loser Central is populated by a particular type
of erotomaniac: the celebrity stalker. They mostly watch video
tapes of their particular star and then write long letters demanding
to know why the star has become obsessed with them. They eat a
lot of jelly donuts and smell faintly of sweat, or urine.
we do not want to become celebrity stalkers, but the danger is
always imminent. Every Thursday I watch Geraldo's "Celebrity
Week in Review." (You may prefer the glibness of Entertainment
Tonight but I appreciate the unbridled schadenfreude of Geraldo's assembled panel of gossip columnists.)
And every Thursday I wonder why I am so hungry to hear the latest
rumour or innuendo about Michael Jackson, or Madonna, or even
David Caruso. (I don't even know who David Caruso is, but I feel
confident that it was a career-killing mistake for him to leave
his tv show — whatever it was — and pursue film work.)
I may be blathering now, but it's to avoid pronouncing the awful
truth: this behaviour is on a continuum with erotomania and any
day now (it need not be a Thursday) I will become a celebrity
stalker. I can only assume you are in a similar position.
Woodcock's pink noise consists of five small pink vintage
television sets symmetrically arranged on a white mantel attached
to the gallery wall. A spotlight defines a circle on the floor
in front of the mantel that serves to situate the viewer. Each
monitor plays a video loop, a slow-mo appropriation of Roseanne
with her head thrown back in laughter. These are taken from the
opening credits of the first five years of the sitcom. While the
opening sequence is updated every year, the basic concept remained
the same until the show's final season, 1995/96: the camera makes
a circular pan around the Connor's kitchen table as they share
a meal, always stopping at Roseanne, who throws her head back
in hysterical laughter.
the fictional character, is informed (I could almost say inhabited)
by Roseanne, the more-or-less actual person, to such an extent
that the figures tend to conflate. I would suggest that the point
of absolute conflation occurs when Roseanne (not to mention Roseanne)
laughs. The laughter, whether scripted or not, issues equally
from both Roseannes.
laughter both attracts and repels. It creates a zone where the
doppelganger Roseannes collide, matter and anti-matter vibrating
slightly out of phase. These dual Roseannes are monstrous. The
stars of eponymous sit-coms often play off the tension between
their characters and off-screen personae — with Roseanne
things are different. The relationship is more complex, each Roseanne
being simultaneously self-aware and out of control. This can only
be disturbing to all of us budding erotomaniacs. Woodcock would
have us stand in the spotlight and subject ourselves to the tortuously
slowed down spectacle of the Roseannes' laughter. We will be left
not knowing who to love.
Woodcock's previous work — elegantly pared-down photo-based
installations — have presented a subject, or body, caught
between silence and enunciation. Psychoanalysis will have us believe
that there can be no subject-formation without language. It sometimes
links a yearning to regress to the pre-verbal with the death drive,
telling us that silence really does equal death. Because we are
already caught in the trap of language and unable to stop the
constant flow of words streaming out of and into us, we can't
really test this hypothesis, but a break from this constant barrage
of subject-forming language seems like a good idea, a vacation
from ourselves and everyone else.
course, Woodcock has set for herself (as the most interesting
artists tend) an impossible task. This is not simply because the
condition of pre-verbal silence is barely imaginable. Her work
itself is a very careful enunciation, and one cannot enunciate
silence. But one can enunciate noise.
pink noise Woodcock
uses laughter, which is not silence or language. The laughter
of Roseanne is culturally ambient, omnipresent. It obliterates
both language and silence, if only momentarily.