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Becoming, 2003

In her installation Becoming (2003), Candice Breitz slips awkwardly into the roles of seven popular Hollywood actresses (Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Meg Ryan, Neve Campbell, Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore). Having cut-and-pasted short sequences of these actresses out of various films (in the process isolating the actresses by eliminating the actors who appeared opposite them), Breitz re-enacts their performances as precisely as possible. Interestingly, Breitz’s re-performances are not simply parodies of the sequences that she copycats. Rather, Breitz mimics the actresses as diligently as possible, producing disturbingly earnest renditions of their performances. As Breitz puts herself through each routine, a grammar that is usually masked slowly makes itself visible… the somewhat narrow range of familiar gestures and expressions available to the actresses (and thus to Breitz herself), points to the limits of media subjectivity, to the wooden vocabulary of being that is sold to us by Hollywood.

Becoming is presented as a series of 7 double-channel works. In each case, two televisions are set back-to-back inside a wooden structure: the first monitor displays the ‘original’ footage (for example, Julia Roberts excerpted from Pretty Woman, or Cameron Diaz extracted from The Sweetest Thing), while the second monitor plays back Breitz’s re-performance. The original and copy are bound together like Siamese twins, not only by their back-to-back presentation, and by their identical duration, but also because they share the same voice: the original Hollywood soundtrack underlies both the source clip and the Breitz version, making the two inseparable. The voice of each Hollywood actress is thus expressed not only through the actress herself, but also through Breitz. This alien presence occupies and directs Breitz’s body, such that each of the resulting new films might be described as a kind of body-karaoke. The back-to-back positioning of each double-sided installation frustrates the simultaneous viewing of the two pieces of footage, forcing the viewer to circle around the work in order to compare the front and rear performances. The sober effect is heightened by the contrast between the lush colour footage of the Hollywood clips, and the simple black-and-white footage of Breitz. Throughout the series, Breitz wears the same simple attire (black pants, white blouse). Her copycat films are set in a nondescript bright space, a stark white cube of sorts.

Becoming raises many complex questions facing contemporary subjectivity, focusing in particular on the way in which identity increasingly takes its cues from media-produced prototypes. Inversely, the work might be read to suggest, that screen icons achieve stardom precisely because - beyond the clichés that they perpetuate – ultimately, we imagine these stars as ‘real’ people. Writing in the 1920s, Siegfried Kracauer had already detected this loop: “Film and life reflect each other because the little working ladies model themselves on the stars they see on the screen. It may however be the case that the most hypocritical of these stars are in fact based on real life.” Incidentally, the title of Breitz’s installation alludes to an MTV program, in which teenagers are given the chance to re-perform a music video starring their favourite pop star.

Candice Breitz Becoming, 2003 14-Channel Installation, consisting of 7 Dual-Channel Installations (installation view)
Candice Breitz Becoming Cameron, 2003 2-Channel Installation Ed. 3 + 1AP
Candice Breitz Becoming Drew, 2003 2-Channel Installation Ed. 3 + 1AP
Candice Breitz Becoming Jennifer, 2003 2-Channel Installation Ed. 3 + 1AP
Candice Breitz Becoming Julia, 2003 2-Channel Installation Ed. 3 + 1AP
Candice Breitz Becoming Meg, 2003 2-Channel Installation Ed. 3 + 1AP
Candice Breitz Becoming Neve, 2003 2-Channel Installation Ed. 3 + 1AP
Candice Breitz Becoming Reese, 2003 2-Channel Installation Ed. 3 + 1AP
Candice Breitz Becoming, 2003 14-Channel Installation, consisting of 7 Dual-Channel Installations (installation view)

Fourteen-Channel Installation, (Consisting of 7 Dual-Channel Installations)
Ed. of 5 + 2 AP

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Candice Breitz

Candice Breitz, born in 1972 in Johannesburg, is best known for her moving image installations. Throughout her career, she has explored the dynamics by means of which an individual becomes him or herself in relation to a larger community, be that community the immediate community that one encounters in family, or the real and imagined communities that are shaped not only by questions of national belonging, race, gender and religion, but also by the increasingly undeniable influence of mainstream media such as television, cinema and popular culture. Most recently, Breitz’s work has focused on the conditions under which empathy is produced, reflecting on a media-saturated global culture in which strong identification with fictional characters and celebrity figures runs parallel to widespread indifference to the plight of those facing real world adversities. Candice Breitz is based in Berlin and, since 2007, holds a professorship for fine arts at the Braunschweig University of Art (HBK). Solo exhibitions of Breitz’s work have been hosted by the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Palais de Tokyo (Paris), The Power Plant (Toronto), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebæk), De Appel Foundation (Amsterdam), Moderna Museet (Stockholm), Castello di Rivoli (Turin) and many others. Next to various group exhibitions Breitz has participated in biennales in Johannesburg (1997), São Paulo (1998), Istanbul (1999), Taipei (2000), Kwangju (2000), Tirana (2001), Venice (2005), New Orleans (2008), Göteborg (2003 + 2009), Singapore (2011) and Dakar (2014). She was invited to the South African Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017).



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