Exterior, Night by Operation Rewrite
Esperanza Collado/Maximilian Le Cain with Michael Higgins & Dean Kavanagh
Friday 25 Sep. 2015
Performance by Esperanza Collado
Operation Rewrite is a collaborative art project by Esperanza Collado and Maximilian Le Cain.
The project began in January 2011 as an online video work in which both artists posted a number of -45second moving-image pieces according to a set of rules, most importantly that one-third of the duration of each video should be black screen.
This peculiarity – the fundamental presence of blank space as an act of expropriation, displacement and projection – became the main subject of our working process, which quickly boiled over into a series of works in and outside of the moving-image medium. Operation Rewrite was designed to grow from its online embryo, identifying, expanding into and occupying other places
The concept of cinema we examine is subject to constant reassessment, embracing perception and projection technology as much as the articulation of signs; the human body as technological contraptions; domestic items as much as film materiality.
Our work deals with the workings of the cut, suspension and interruption as fundamental associative principles of cinema and (both its) consecutive (and preceding) matters.
As the project develops, certain objects, images and actions recur, acquiring resonance and significance, as they are re-used. Operation Rewrite occupies a zone between dream, cinema and mundane ritual.
In moving beyond the initial online video phase, Operation Rewrite branched out into a number of interdisciplinary works including 16mm and 8mm films, an artist’s book and a photoblog. Three exhibitions took place, each involving multiple installations, at LEVE arts space in Castro de Cepeda, León, Spain (September 2011), Instituto Cervantes, Dublin, Ireland (October 2011) and Cork Film Centre Gallery, Cork, Ireland (May 2012). But the interest in bodily intervention, cinematic deconstruction, and materialist investigation has ultimately caused Operation Rewrite to resolve itself into being primarily a performance project.
Operation Rewrite performances usually involve the artists, as ‘scientist’ figures, interacting with elaborate film projections (Super8 and 16mm), pre-recorded and live sounds, as well as objects arranged to form mutant installations. Cut-up film noir narratives may coexist with a materialist investigation of both the artist’s body and the body of cinema. The latter is considered from an ‘amplique’ or expanded view after the achievements of Lettrism. The medium of film becomes an object, malleable and fragile, edible, destructible, and capable of measuring space and time. Projected light and its magnetic field of intermittency may bleed through a sewing machine illuminated against a corporeal screen and penetrate a blindfold. All of these actions and others, framed by a series of subtle and straightforward interruptions, make Operation Rewrite performances disturbing and humorous in equal parts. They typically feature such objects and events as 16mm and Super8 film projections, darkroom compositions, choreographed actions, diegetic sounds, tape recordings, feathers, eggs, tools, an oval mirror, a gas mask, fake blood, a pipe, a brown folder, a filmstrip, buckets of liquid, an empty cloak, an ironing board, shoulder massage, a spooky television, a bloody X, a variety of other Xs, red light, a phone conversation, a cocktail shaker, a sewing machine, light bleed, palm trees, tennis equipment, robot costumes, printed letters…
The performance aspect of Operation Rewrite began with an intervention at the opening of a 2011 exhibition at Instituto Cervantes, Dublin. While a projection of the artists sitting before the public unfolded, their disembodied voices recited a text. Although read live through a microphone from a place of concealment, the audience couldn’t tell if what they heard was live or pre-recorded or if the artists were even present in the space. The first full-scale performance, Feather Mirror, followed in 2012 at Cork Film Centre Gallery, in which projections, the examination of dirty laundry and a mirror shattered by a hammer were amongst the events that reconfigured domesticity as a toxic subject of experimentation in a space that felt deep underground. This performance culminated in the first screening of Collado’s film The Illuminating Gas which is thematically linked to it. The concept of gas and the presence of gas masks have frequently recurred throughout Operation Rewrite’s work.
The subsequent, closely related performances Manila Sand Trap (The Guesthouse, Cork, Ireland, 2012) and Threaded Cocktail (Xcentric, Barcelona, Spain, 2013) elaborated on Feather Mirror to more violent and nightmarish ends, featuring fake blood and the attempted eating of film stock as the body and projector became increasingly linked. These performances featured Irish theatre writer, director and performer John McCarthy, a lead performer in many of Le Cain’s films. Le Cain’s Areas of Sympathy (2013) starring McCarthy and Collado, drew heavily on the atmosphere of Manila Sand Trap and even features footage of the performance. This performance also further set the personae of the two main performers, with Collado as the busy scientist performing bizarre experiments and Le Cain as the objectified, slightly sub-human subject she works on.
While John Was Dreaming (Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilla León, Spain, 2013) and A Piece of Broken Mirror Suspended on a String (Tabakalera, San Sebastian, Spain, 2014), a response to Marcel Duchamp and Maya Deren’s unfinished film Witch’s Cradle (1943), saw a more playful, less overtly threatening if still typically disconcerting approach to Operation Rewrite material. Essentially consisting of a series of bizarre, failed ‘experiments’ that are equally private rituals, these performances saw image projections becoming less important and giving way to pure light or simple loops. Le Cain spent much of these performances in the guise of tin foil faced robot being controlled by Collado with a red torch. Collado also introduced an iconic prop: a small palm tree. This, as well as some other elements and actions first employed here, would subsequently form part of her acclaimed solo performance We Only Guarantee the Dinosaurs (2015).
In September 2015, Operation Rewrite will perform an all-new piece in Tehran, their first work together in over a year. Their motto always remains the same: “Still Testing!”
Esperanza Collado will present Exterior, Night. This is a performance devised by Operation Rewrite, a collaborative project by Esperanza Collado and Maximilian Le Cain. Their performances consist of choreographed actions involving objects and projections, and usually involve both artists.