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The Woods, 2012

Trilogy of video installations

"The Woods" takes a close look at the world of child performers and the performance of childhood as it probes the dreams and promises embedded in mainstream cinema. Consistent with Breitz’s interest in the role that mimicry plays in the forging of selfhood, and with her ongoing analysis of the circular relationship between real life and reel life, "The Woods" traverses three continents to explore the rituals and conventions governing the on-camera and off-camera personae of professional child actors, as well as adult actors who have become famous playing child roles. The trilogy brings together footage shot in Los Angeles, Mumbai and Lagos, seeking to observe and grasp the aspirational logic that is shared by Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood.

Engaging actors and crews whose creative labour would ordinarily be subsumed into these three giant popular cinema industries, the three chapters of "The Woods" bring a behind-the-scenes eye to industries that typically prefer to mask their inner workings. As suggested by their titles – "The Audition", "The Rehearsal" and "The Interview" – in each of the three installations making up "The Woods", a particular show business ritual becomes the locus of meaning through which to more broadly reflect upon and decode the machinery of mainstream entertainment.

Candice Breitz, The Woods (triology), The Audition, 2012, 6-Channel Video Installation, color, sound (Excerpt)

Shot on location in Los Angeles in September 2012 with the support of a professional Hollywood crew, and conceived as the first chapter of "The Woods", "The Audition" features 25 aspiring child actors aged between 10 and 16. In place of the short comedic or dramatic monologues that they would usually be asked to prepare and perform for a Hollywood audition, Breitz asked each actor to learn and re-perform a series of quotations transcribed directly from online motivational videos featuring industry gurus offering professional advice to would-be actors looking to ace their auditions and move onto successful Hollywood careers.

As they regurgitate the adult advice that they are accustomed to internalising in pursuit of an acting career, the young actors lay bare the gruelling path that must be travelled in order to break into showbiz. While they at times succeed in seamlessly ventriloquizing the casting directors, talent managers and acting coaches from whom their script derives, at other moments the borrowed advice is rendered grotesque via exaggerated delivery or as a result of the young actors’ imperfect mimicry of the adults that they parrot.

Drawing on and following the protocol of Hollywood auditions and casting routines, "The Audition" also incorporates footage of the young actors being ‘slated’ (introducing themselves to the camera) and singing excerpts of songs of their choice (several of the kids perform self-written songs). Breaking with the usual speed and efficiency of the Hollywood audition, the young actors are additionally captured enduring free-form screen tests, during which they were asked to engage the camera as they wished (without any direction whatsoever) for the duration of 5 minutes.

While "The Rehearsal" and "The Interview" map the terrain of the celebrity interview, "The Audition" is a study of the dynamics underpinning Hollywood’s equivalent of the job interview.

Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP (film stills)
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP (film stills)
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP (film stills)
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP (film stills)
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP (film stills)
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP

Candice Breitz, The Woods (triology), The Rehearsal, 2012, 6-Channel Video Installation, color, sound (Excerpt)

Shot in Mumbai in May 2011 with the support of a professional Bollywood crew, "The Rehearsal" features six young Bollywood stars. Conceived as the second chapter of "The Woods", "The Rehearsal" spotlights child actors who have managed to advance their careers (beyond the anonymity and gruelling audition-to-audition existence of the aspiring actors featured in "The Audition"), and to gain a degree of visibility. As child stars, they nevertheless remain at a distance from the full-blown celebrity that they hope to eventually achieve as adult actors. They are as such in a state of rehearsal, not only for adulthood, but also towards the greater fame and recognition that—statistically viewed—few child actors will ultimately achieve.

As they describe their lives as Bollywood celebrities, their relationship to their fans and their approaches to acting, the six young actors at first glance appear to be spontaneously responding to interview questions. It soon becomes clear, however, that rather than ‘being themselves,’ they are in fact channelling the words of an adult. Each member of the cast was in fact asked to memorize and deliver a range of quotations drawn from interviews with Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan, an actor who, in the Indian context, perhaps best embodies the future celebrity to which the child performers aspire. Known to his fans as the "Badshah of Bollywood" or "SRK", Khan is broadly considered to have achieved greater acclaim than any of his Bollywood peers. Based on a script woven entirely out of his words (as these are owned and re-performed by the child cast), "The Rehearsal" paints a quirky composite portrait of "SRK", and at the same time offers a revealing glimpse into the workings of the Bollywood star system.

The high attrition rate facing young actors hoping to one day migrate into adult celebrity is suggested by the single chair that is temporarily occupied by each child (alluding to the children’s game "musical chairs"), as well as by the vase of cut flowers appearing behind each actor.

Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP

Candice Breitz, The Woods (triology), The Interview, 2012, 2-Channel Video Installation, color, sound (Excerpt)

Shot in Lagos in June 2012 with the support of a professional Nollywood crew, THE INTERVIEW features Nollywood superstars Chinedu Ikedieze (born 1977) and Osita Iheme (born 1982), known endearingly to their fans as "Aki and Pawpaw", the names of the mischievous child characters that they played in their huge breakthrough hit "Aki Na Ukwa" (2002), a film that remains one of Nollywood’s biggest blockbusters. As the final chapter of "The Woods", "The Interview" brings us face to face with two professional adult actors. Ikedieze and Iheme, who have been cast together in the vast majority of their films, are ranked among the biggest stars of popular African cinema.

Breitz interviewed each of the actors individually over a period of two full days, eliciting a vast archive of information over the four-day shoot. The two separate interviews were then woven into a dual-channel installation that offers a dense cut-and-paste portrait of the duo. Via their rags-to-riches biographies, they give voice to and reflect on the urgent aspirations underpinning the explosive growth of Nollywood since its emergence in 1992. "The Interview" inverts the logic of both "The Audition" and "The Rehearsal", in which child actors ventriloquize the words of adults. Here, rather than children assuming the roles of adults, we encounter two adult performers who have built stellar careers playing child roles.

"The Interview" marks the decade-long acting partnership of Ikedieze and Iheme, as well as 20 years of the Nigerian film industry. It also marks the first time ever that Nollywood actors have been interviewed at length and comprehensively about their experiences in the burgeoning African film industry. "The Interview" is to some extent both a biopic and a documentary, while failing to subscribe neatly to the conventions of either genre. In keeping with "The Audition" and "The Rehearsal", it hovers between fact and fiction, between spontaneous gesture and rehearsed performance, between documentary scrutiny and the artifice of an intensely mediated edit.

Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP
Candice Breitz The Woods (Trilogy), 2012 Multi-channel video installation Ed. 3 + 2AP (film still)

The Audition

Director + Editor: Candice Breitz / Co-Commissioners: The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (Melbourne) + Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts) / Location: Independence Studio, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, USA: September 2012 / Line Producer: A.J. Wedding / First Assistant Director: Jeff Ketcham / Casting: Candice Breitz / Casting Support: Children In Film, Crackerjack Management, Hollywood Mom Blog, Mark Teschner / Unit Production Manager: Jeff Ketcham / Director of Photography: A.J. Wedding / Gaffer: Leo Jaramillo / First Sound Mixer: Daniel Langa / Second Sound Mixer: Matt Burgette / Boom Operator: Nick Ronzio / Still Photography: Johanna Breiding, Mary Rasmussen, M. Blake Besharian / Makeup: Kristen Koskella / Production Assistants: Anna Carnochan, Daniel Verret / Post Production: Alexander Fahl / Cast: Melissa Alex, Keefer C. Blakeslee, Cam Caddell, Alex Calloway, Mikayla Chapman, Shayna Chapman, Tatiana Chipondaminga, Madison Dae Clarion, Chelsea Clark, Dawson Fletcher, Billy Fridley, Alyssa Gonzales, Cece Hagen, Nikki Hovan, Flynn Janger, Sonari Jo, Emma Joy, Cameron Kasal, Ruka Felicity Nagashima, Kade Pait, Laila Rodriques, Justin Stone, Blanca Sullivan, Kelly Sweeney, Xander Taylor.

The Rehearsel

Director + Editor: Candice Breitz / Co-Commissioners: The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (Melbourne) + Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts) / Location: Oakwood Premier, Juhu, Mumbai, India: May 2011 / Line Producer: Mamta Murthy / First Assistant Director: Mamta Murthy / Casting: Candice Breitz / Production Manager: Shivkumar S. Pillai / Director of Photography: Malini Dasari / Sound Recordist: Amala Popuri / Boom Operator: Mahesh D. Katte / Acting Consultant: Nivedita Bhargava / Set Construction: Shankar Samanta / Assistant to Director: Ashmeet Rajpal / Casting Assistant: Ruchi Shah / Camera Assistant: Sunny Tripathi / Lighting Assistants: Sayyad Hussain, Deepak V. Takke / Production Assistant: Darshan Waghmare / Makeup: Surendra Pardesi, Smruti / Spot Boys: Nilesh V. Manjrekar, Aakash A. Shilwant / Still Photography: Mamta Murthy / Post Production: Alexander Fahl / Cast: Ahsaas Channa, Ishita Panchal, Darsheel Safary, Shriya Sharma, Aman Siddiqui and Markand Soni.

The Interview

Director + Editor: Candice Breitz / Co-Commissioners: The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (Melbourne) + Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts) / Location: Wheatbaker Hotel, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria: June 2012 / Line Producer: Mak ‘Kusare / Production Coordinator: Aderemi Adegbite / Director of Photography: Leonard Nformi / Sound Recordists: Pius Fatoke, Alimi Saheed Olaide / Production Assistant: David Azeez / Still Photography: Aderemi Adegbite / Post Production: Alexander Fahl / Cast: Chinedu Ikedieze, Osita Iheme / Special Thanks: Tola Akerele, Jude Anogwih, Peace Anyiam-Fiberesima, Emeka Bob-Anyeji, Simon Grindrod, Shaibu Husseini, Osita Iheme, Chinedu Ikedieze, Chike Nwagbogu, Onyeka Nwelue, Victor Okhai, Zina Saro-Wiwa, Bisi Silva, Marc-André Schmachtel, Trevor Smith, Emeka + Uka Udemba, Clare van Zyl, Dorothee Wenner.

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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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