That’s what I thought of Candice Breitz’s work when I saw this cover of Modern Painters magazine. “Who is this ridiculous person, posing like some 80′s retard,” is what I thought. “Is this Candice Breitz?”
No, actually. Nor was it some post-Fisher Spooner ironic nightmare dance group but a still from a pretty thrilling video piece.
I have my tastes and pop-culture infused video pieces are not one of them. I rarely think about Michael Jackson and think even less about Madonna but Candice Breitz’s piece made the two seem awesome and dazzling.
You walk into a dark Sonnabend Gallery and against the wall is long horizontal row of about 15 HDTVs, turned vertically, each one showing some sort of nutty Michael Jackson fan in front of a black background—some are extreme fans (like the guy on the cover of MP), dressed up to sort of look like MJ, others seem like milder fans, they all seem to come from different walks of life; for some reason, one is a belly-dancer. And the brilliant part is that they’re all singing the entire Thriller album in unison, without any accompaniment, and they’re all really into it. You realize that Breitz must have put an ad out for Michael Jackson fans to sing along to the album for her in front of the camera (they’re all wearing tiny earphones, that you can’t see) and then she synched them all together so that they sound like some sort of insane chorus. The funny thing is that they’re all pretty good singers so that you don’t ever think, “what a bunch of loser wannabes.” Instead, you sort of become one of the Michael Jackson fans yourself and you feel like singing along. The piece seems to take away all of the annoying gloss of MJ and makes the music feel more personal and intimate.
The same is true for the Madonna piece in the other room. This time the singers are stacked in a large grid and are behind white drapery. I think they’re singing the True Blue album (it’s the one with “Like a Prayer” on it). And they’re all pretty good, and they all have a totally different style of singing but it all works so well together (they’re also whiter and gayer then the Michael Jackson fans). You end up thinking to yourself, “isn’t life great? Aren’t people just terrific?” Which is a very rare experience to have at a gallery in Chelsea.