Saturday, August 9, 2014


Two artists at the thin end of their marriage live in a house designed by an artist. They work with great concentration at their various projects which largely involve ideas about space and communicate via an intercom and fail to communicate when they are in the same room.

Of the two it is the woman who seems the most restless. She drapes herself in window casements or wrapped around corners, posing on and playing with her desk chair have the feel of experiment rather than idle play. She plays dead when he wants to have sex with her or subverts the marital bed, using things like lubricant or stilettos as though unfamiliar with their significance. She seems to be searching for ways to escape within the confines of the house. He takes this with the ease of familiarity and seems happy enough to retreat to his work room and potter at his projects.

The house is the place. They begin to understand how much importance it has to them when they decide to sell it. When they socialise with their professional class couple friends the talk is all of living space. At one point when the man decides to go for a late night walk speaking in a distant voice of how impressed she will be if she follows him she is fearful and reminds of "what happened last time" without further detail. There is a kind of indoor portal that must be opened to access the street door. A street incident involving unspecified violence and an ambulance and the police has her fear so much for the man that she runs into the street in her underwear. The bonds are clear but conflicted.

So why is this film so compelling? It might easily have collapsed in on itself with that kind of material. But there is so much obvious force behind the central ideas and the leading duo perform with such deadpan conviction that the thing just holds on to you. Its Beckett-like absurdism is careful to include the humour that no Beckett piece did without. Also, there is a real warmth between the central pair despite indications that they are separating. Even if this feels a little grasping it nevertheless works to give the film a strong and recognisable grounding.

On the same city block as Matthew Barney at his most inspired, Exhibition works. It just works.

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