October 9, 2007

Quality Brissie Talent

My wonderfully talented friend, Janice Kuczkowski, was involved with the Young Brisbane Artists Exhibition at Metro Arts this month.

Below is an excerpt from the website discussing Janice's work.


Sneezing was once thought to involve an individual’s heart stopping and their soul escaping through their mouth and nostrils. Working from this myth, Janice Kuczkowski attempts to capture the soul of her subjects in Experimentation in the Limits of Tolerance #5, a series of digital video portraits.

Against a black backdrop, Kuczkowski’s subjects are split from the upper torso diagonally, horizontally or vertically; the remaining half is then mirrored on the other side of the screen. Each of the five subjects are filmed as they attempt to sneeze. In anticipation of the oncoming sneeze, their bodies convulse and their eyelids pull shut; before they are able to execute a sneeze, however, their movements are replayed at varying speeds and the sequence is ruptured by jump-cuts. Frames cut between moments of the subject’s bodies preparing for the expulsion of breath and the changing of the angle at which the screen is split.

In these physically demanding moments, Kuczkowski presents us with the possibility – perhaps never to be realised – of capturing the true subject. In doing so, Kuczkowski echoes concerns expressed by artists such as Bill Viola – with whom Kuczkowski shares formal similarities – and Francis Bacon. As the sneeze momentarily takes hold of the subject, they lose their self-consciousness before the camera, analogous to the loss of the heartbeat in the myth of the sneeze. No longer self-conscious, the subjects of Kuczkowski’s portraits appear to drop their veneer, letting their unmediated self (soul) escape temporarily. Kuczkowski’s subjects, like Bacon’s, are presented in their fervent and visceral form. What Kuczkowski envisions, however, is the movement which takes place between Bacon’s violent lines. Kuczkowski’s careful editing draws the viewer’s attention to the barely visible movements of the subject’s flesh clinging to their bones in tense anticipation.

Not only a contemplation of the possibility of portraiture, Kuczkowski’s Experimentation in the Limits of Tolerance #5 references its own medium. Moving image feeds the viewer’s anticipation of the next frame, akin to the way in which Kuczkowski’s individual tries to anticipate when their oncoming sneeze will finally arrive. Just as the finial event of sneezing brings relief after the build up, so does the last frame of a film. In Experimentation in the Limits of Tolerance #5, however, the subjects never reach this moment of full release. Moreover, the viewer watching the video’s subjects is also left without reprieve since the images play before them on loop.

WORDS: Ellie Buttrose