View larger image
For this exhibition, Elizabeth and I have decided to take turns each week to blog about a different work or project in the show. I’m starting off this series with a look at Fašade (2010), a film installation by Phil Coy, which inspired the exhibition’s theme.
Coy’s 34-minute film is projected onto a hanging sheet of plate glass, positioned in the centre of a green screen stage which was custom built and painted in the gallery (a fantastic shade of neon green, much more fun to paint than plain white plinths).
The first half of the film is presented as a documentary about contemporary glass buildings, narrated by BBC news anchor Julia Somerville. She speaks directly into the camera about the enduring ideals of modernist glass architecture and the psychology of these spaces, where occupants have full view of their external surroundings but are restricted from any physical contact with the outside world; Somerville declares, "The wall is the window, and the window the wall."
The film also features a repetition of onscreen rituals, mechanically performed by a blonde woman on the top floor of a corporate glass building, while Somerville describes these actions in voice over. Then, suddenly, the woman is obscured from view by a member of the filming crew. He steps into the shot and noisily adjusts her microphone, while in the background the glass walls melt away to reveal that the woman is actually posed in front of a green screen. She adjusts her blonde wig and asks the director whether she should re-start her lines once more from the beginning. From this point on, bits and pieces of the film’s production are unexpectedly exposed and interspersed with the finished footage -- the effect is strange and disorientating. In a good way, of course :)
I especially like the segment of candid footage of conversation between Julia Somerville and her make-up artist. It takes place at an illuminated vanity table, while her make-up is touched up before the shoot.
Somerville says, "Of course, an actress is made up to look like the part she’s playing, whereas in theory, you’re trying to make me look like me."
After a moment, she corrects herself: "Actually I’m not going to be me today, I’m going to be playing the news anchor."
Julia Somerville as the News Anchor is perfectly cast in Fašade. I feel I ‘know’ her and I trust that the information she presents to me is truth, because she appears in Fašade the same way she appears on BBC News. Coy breaks down these assumptions, revealing the ways that public persona is shaped by the tools of corporate media production. Case in point: the Autocue -- a teleprompter which feeds Somerville her scripted lines throughout the film; "it is a device," she recites, eyes fixed on the prompter screen, "designed to deliver a facade of meaning."
For more information about Phil Coy's work, click the link to his website here: