Birgitta Hosea


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out there in the dark (2008 - 13)

out there in the dark performance

artist statement

'Out There in the Dark' is a live performance in which animation is combined with the living body: the artist becomes a living sculpture, a hybrid being that is half human and half animation. Seated on a chair, she is hooded and her face is replaced with that of an animated doll lipsynching to samples of dialogue from Sunset Boulevard (1950). A live video feed of the performance is projected onto a back wall and the artist interacts with the camera during the performance as her gestures become increasingly hysterical.

This dialogue is deconstructed, cut into small fragments and repeated to create a frenetic soundtrack. The repetition serves to deconstruct Gloria Swanson's dialogue, as Norma Desmond, when she refers to the act of performing for the camera. Tragically, she is actually performing for the cameras of assembled police and journalists because she has just killed her lover. Sunset Boulevard is a classic movie about the star system. Gloria Swanson’s performance personifies the shift in acting technique from stylised silent movie acting to the more naturalistic approach of the classic Hollywood era in which the film was made.

This work investigates the performance of femininity and the performativity of animation. There are three different types of performance at play in the work - real-time physical performance, pre-recorded animated performance and live mediated performance. The artist is at once animator and animated; creator and projection screen; self and other. 'Out There in the Dark' references the three-dimensional video projections of Tony Oursler, the hybrid slide projections of photographer Katharina Sieverding, the hysterical gestures and stop-motion animation of the Brothers Quay.

The original inspiration for this performance was Katharina Sieverding’s installation Transformer (2008[1973-4]) which consists of slide projections of hybrid portraits of herself and her partner Klaus Metting, both made up in the same heavy make-up. Projections filled the room of images of Katharina becoming Klaus and Klaus becoming Katharina. Blurring the boundaries between the two, it was hard to tell where Katharina began and Klaus ended. The eight huge images filled the room and were the height of the wall. The sheer size of the images had an immediate visceral impact.

This work is underpinned by the idea of where does ‘I’ the animator start and ‘it’, the animated character, end. Animators often look at mirrors or video themselves as reference, for example to ensure that they are using the correct mouth shapes when representing speech. In this piece, the animator merges with the character through the superimposition of the animated doll, projected onto the animators face. Having a paper bag over the head was partially adopted as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the use of this metaphor in common parlance, but was mainly intended to act as a neutral mask. The idea was to anonymize the identity of the artist, de-individualize her and transform her into an ‘Everyman’ character, although the hybrid character that emerges – half human and half animation – is unsettling for many viewers.

technical requirements

The performance is intended to be a cyclical piece that continually repeats a loop of 7-10mins, for a duration of several hours. The ideal length is a minimum of 2 hours in a gallery setting. It can be performed on a stage or in a peep-show. In the context of a film festival, the loop can be performed once as a one-off piece.

tech set-up 1tech set-up 2