Tracey Moffat - Adventures
This article is from 2006.
Tracey Moffat says that if she weren’t making art she’d be running around slashing car tyres with a butcher’s knife. And, in renouncing her crude meat-cleaver aspirations, this Australian artist has developed an altogether more powerful arsenal: the camera.
Moffat shuns the fussiness of subtlely. Her films and photographs are simply disinterested in the refinery of pastel hues and delicate feminity. Instead this is the nauseating technicolour of pop and kitsch. These latest photographs of exotic landscapes and erotic women dazzle with a vibrancy akin to Gauguin but wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Baywatch. Moffat exposes the mass media histrionics of an obnoxious beauty we have wrought and participated in. Strapping sailors clutch Elizabeth Taylor-styled women, all burliness and beauty. In Moffat’s sequential comic-strip narrative we see submission, capture, passion, murky power narratives and, above all, an implacable sense of irony. The shiny airbrushed nature of these new works is flawless, garish and entirely arresting.
But although these latest photographs attempt to act as stand-alone works, they serve more as a hazing into Moffat’s older and much more spectacular film works being shown downstairs. ‘Love’ is a compilation of Hollywood’s greatest hits, slaps, snogs and gun fights of heterosexual couples. And, when boiled down to two-second clips taken from hundreds of famous films, the unrelenting assemblage of melodrama is reconfigured into a subversive and worrying portrait of exploitation: men as heroes and beasts, women as bitter shrews or victims empowered through their own survival of abuse. ‘Artist’ and ‘Lip’ follow in a similar manner of editing, instead exploring Hollywood’s representations of artists and black maids respectively, with daringly provocative, and often humourous conclusions.
Moffat’s raw materials - glamour, sex, violence, prejudice and parody - are restructured into an equally raw critique. Her films are, in many ways, a kind of collaboration with the very thing that they rail against. The uneasy proximity of her compilations to the original films themselves is what gives them their edgy appeal. And although Moffat’s new photo works fail to match the potency of the old films, their high-gloss queasiness is far from disappointing. (Isla Leaver-Yap)
Stills, Edinburgh, until 29 Oct