“Entertainment has concurred reality”
An Interview with Paul Kindersley.
By Lucy Condon, January 2010
“Entertainment has concurred reality” reads the caption on one solitary drawing hidden among many on the artist Paul Kindersley’s website. They are strong words for such a seemingly throwaway image, conjuring up connections to a postmodern rhetoric. Think Baudrillard’s Hyperreality or totalising version of Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and you’ll know what I mean; we now exist in a world where fiction has become reality and reality is no more than a dream. Such a synopsis seems somewhat dreary; humanity unable to cope with reality, or perhaps prevented from doing so, has started retreating to a safe haven of make believe and fairy tales. At least that is one way of looking at it.
But what if such a statement is approached less as an absolute truth and more as a possibility that simultaneously frustrates and excites? What if you refuse to believe that one has concurred the other, but rather follow the logic that both exist in what can only be described as a Möbius strip, intangibly intertwined. Here is where the work of newcomer Paul Kindersley lays, rooted in the space between fan and artist, the public and the personal and most importantly between fiction and reality.
Inspired by his teenage antics, sneaking into cheap student film nights at the local arts cinema, Kindersley draws upon the allure of pop culture. His performances and installations set about capturing the intensity of the enthralling filmic moment, utilising images and paraphernalia derived from this world to condense the feelings of excitement one has whilst engrossed in cinema. As such it is more than an appreciation for the universal language of popular culture that sustains Kindersley’s interest in film as a staple means through which to articulate his ideas. It is more the resounding effects they produce on their audience long after ceasing to occur. As the artist explains, “We can all see the same film, but what happens to it when it meshes with our own personal experiences is unique and exciting ... I never see films as individually contained pieces of two hours long, but rather millions of characters, clips, emotions and ideas that we constantly rearrange.” This permanent state of flux may appear frustrating for some but here, given an arena through which to be explored, the necessity of such a futile striving for answers itself becomes empowered.
Within this mystifying setting the artists decision to pay homage to such a narrow and seemingly bizarre area of cinema, namely 1960’s and 70’s exploitation movies, becomes clear. Deliberately chosen as they lay just outside the grasp of artist’s memory, Kindersley being born well into the eighties, these films form his main source of reference through which to reconstruct the past. The art therefore floats in between the real that was never truly experienced, and a fiction that through a meshing of memories has become a true embodiment of the 60’s and 70’s. As Kindersley explains “I don’t see any difference between ‘nostalgia’ from real events or film encounters, they are all experiences that can be treated as equally valuable, especially when time starts to blur them.” And who is to argue against such a depiction? After all memory is volatile thing, it is very rare that someone can put their hand on their heart and say what they remember is an exact account of what occurred; the two more times than not stay as separate entities.
Exploitation genres too possess the innate ability to sacrifice all other elements, such as props and characters, in the quest for one acute moment that attaches itself to the viewer, distilling the mood of the film. Take Blood for Dracula produced by Andy Warhol, a film whose premise revolves around an extreme emphasis upon horror and in particular sex, as the Count - with much writhing and groaning - continues to suck the blood of numerous virgins, whose purity certainly remains questionable. It is in these extremes that film allows us the opportunity to come into contact with intensified emotions, whether of fear or excitement. Such a “compulsion tells us a huge amount about ourselves and opens up areas and connections we wouldn’t necessarily make in everyday life, like a Pandora’s Box”, says Kindersley. “I feel that my work helps to distil these excitements or fears into a sort of choreographed event that is ready to be confused and pulled apart again in its interaction with the viewer.”
But as always when ones tries to choreograph just such an event, presenting it to an audience, they tread a very fine line that if misused threatens to purge the art of all that made its source so absorbing. Kindersley’s mise-en-scene props that litter his installations could potentially do no more than shatter the filmic illusion; there can be no doubt in the viewers mind that what lies before them is simply paper and wood. But to take Kindersley’s art at such face value would be to miss the point entirely. The work may not have the immediacy of say the first murder scene in Argento’s Suspiria which, through tension building music, eerie lighting and over the top ketchup induced gore, has the overpowering ability to keep one’s eyes fixed firmly upon the screen; but they do have something. When viewing Kindersley’s installation She Wanted His Soul, But He Could Only Give Her His Blood at Transition Gallery last year, it felt as if I had been slotted between two scenes in a film, and as if in possession of a sort of Bernard’s watch had been left in a filmic limbo where time stood still. Here I was able to skirt round the props and examine them till my heart’s content, but through the combination of lighting and sound constantly retained a feeling of horror and dread that the giant figure of German actor Udo Kier behind me may at any moment come to live and suck my blood!
Then the ‘shattering’ of film becomes less of a negativity and more a necessity, “is where I think our interaction with film occurs”, notes the artist “only when shards enter our psyche, has the film effected us, and we in a way can effect it, and for that moment we do own it.” What is then important is what we do with these fragments. Just as is shown in the piece Washing Hands with Don Juan we can take grasp of these new elements and mould them into something of our own creation. Just as Kindersley notes the work of Karen Kilimnik - an American artist who through the repainting of objects claims a sense of them now belonging to her - here his interpretation of the scene from the 1973 film staring Brigitte Bardot becomes his own.
To some extent this sad lust for power can be seen in quite a melancholic light, all of which is heightened by the obsessive-fan-like manner in which Kindersley seems to approach his art. For instance, She Wanted His Soul, But He Could Only Give Her His Blood seems to act as a shrine to Udo Kier, whose image appears in an almost holy serenity, backlit to shine in the dimly lit room. Even Kindersley acknowledges that, “in a way my work is a desperate attempt to pull the ‘fan’ back from their sad stereotype, often failing ... [There is] something people would conceive as sad, in constructing ones live according to film and stars, but I feel it is just an extension of a very human act - learning and experiencing with a larger cultural surrounding.”
So it seems that this sad lust can turn into an empowering force to be utilised at ones will. And just like the films they distil, Kindersley’s artworks seem to act as an extension to this shifting of confusion and ownership. The artist has said he hopes his work possesses “a lingering mystery, like when ten years later one tries to remember an event and a blurring mix of real and fantasy images comes flooding back and it is no longer clear or important which is the real memory. It is very important to me that my work affects the viewer in that way, almost forcing its way into the recesses of remembered clips.” Hence the reasons so many esoteric film stills are appropriated into Kindersley’s installations. The enlarged woman’s face in You Killed a Man for one may not be instantly recognisable, but her features linger seeming to resemble countless pop icons.
Though the reason each carefully constructed element of Kindersley’s art – each ‘prop’ as he refers to them – is able to bury itself within our memory is due to more than a simple reproduction of various pop images. These props “have an evident history of being ‘played’ with or experienced, yet also the possibility of being used or moving again at any moment.” It is this sense of playfulness, to some extent exemplified by the camp subject matter, which really allows the artwork to connect with the audience. Here the ‘props’ become less about a deconstruction of filmic time and more about the wealth of possibilities this deconstruction allows.
As to the question of whether entertainment has concurred reality it seems Kindersley’s more inquisitive and less pragmatic approach has a significant amount to offer, far more than the instant resignation of pure acceptance. In his own words, “by embracing the boundaries between ‘opposites’ and not forcing things into boxes, we can find more exciting places to explore. So I would say that I create work to occupy the room that exists in between reality/fantasy/entertainment, yet also a room that exists simultaneously WITHIN them all.”