Review: Montages: The Full Cut 1999–2015 –
Artist Tracey Moffatt and collaborator Gary Hillberg –
Wanneroo Gallery –
Reviewed by Belinda Hermawan
Over a period of sixteen years, artist Tracey Moffatt and collaborator Gary Hillberg have created a suite of eight short montage films which do much more than showcase highlights from cinematic history. The short films – built using scenes from classic and modern cinema, as well as television series – construct their own narratives, functioning as an active inquiry into the universal themes of love, destruction, otherness, art and revolution.
In reducing these key themes to a concentrated form, each film thrusts the viewer into a powerful, even confronting, case study of the interaction between the individual and society as a whole. Social expectations of race and gender, are examined in Other, and the colonial lens is exposed as a filter. Lip depicts female black maids giving ‘lip’ to their white masters, subverting the image of the powerless victim. In both Love and Mother, love is depicted as a horrifying power, one that encompasses both beauty and angst. The Artist and Art juxtaposes the trope of the tormented genius against the selling out of the global art industry. Cyclic class structures are investigated in Revolution; human-instigated destruction is just one of the various forms of devastation depicted in Doomed.
All eight films are a sublime blend of beauty and pain. Expertly edited, with momentous soundtracks, these supercuts are wholly immersive. The sheer volume and breadth of cinema and television referenced is staggering – think Independence Day, Mutiny on the Bounty, Mother and Son, Thelma and Louise, Sex and the City, to name a handful – yet the viewer does not need to be familiar with the majority of the source material to experience its impact. In fact, each moment of recognition is a reminder of one’s individualised lens – that some of us will recognise certain scenes while others won’t.
Montages tend to be used in expected spaces, acting as the highlight reel for ceremonies and promotions of all kinds. Like a movie trailer, montages tend to focus on the points of note, slicing and compacting these into a digestible package. Moffatt and Hillberg’s work is so thought-provoking that digestion may not be easy. There are reflections to be made, questions asked, biases probed, and thoughts reframed.
Motion picture’s combination of audio and visual material arguably makes it the easiest medium to use to capture an audience’s attention. In “Montages” Moffatt and Hillberg take cinema beyond the familiar, to move us in unpredictable ways.
Top photo: Tracey Moffatt and Garry Hillberg: ‘Other’ (still) 2010, 7 minutes, looped video, sound. Courtesy of artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and Tyler Rollings Fine Art, New York, copyright: the artist.