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T. J. Wilcox / MATRIX 198

Smorgasbord

June 16, 2002 - July 28, 2002

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T. J. Wilcox: Ladies' Room (Twenty Questions), 2002 (DVD still); digital video; courtesy of Metro Pictures, New York.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF) .

T. J. Wilcox is among a growing number of installation artists who are fascinated by film. For this New York–based artist, the physical means of showing a film is part of cinema's magic. He explains that the fantastic voyages a film viewer can experience begin upon entering the gallery in which his installations are presented. Once the viewer sees the screen and hears the projector, the possibilities promised in film are announced.

Wilcox creates films that are laboriously pieced together, frame by frame, from vintage and new film clips and animation. He copies the film onto video, then transfers it back again onto 16mm to get a grainy, deliberately low–tech final version. Though he avoids straightforward narrative in favor of a pastiche effect, Wilcox is attracted to stories, particularly historical tales that have been passed down for centuries, losing some veracity and gaining texture with each retelling. His MATRIX exhibition will feature three films.

The Death and Burial of the First Emperor of China (1997) is a combination home movie, travelogue, and National Geographic film. The story is based on oft-retold historical and anthropological accounts of the tomb of the first emperor of China. The Death and Burial begins in front of Mann's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and includes touristic footage shot by the artist in the Chinese tea palace in Potsdam, Germany; stop–action animation; and bits from old movies, including Fellini's Casanova .

The Little Elephant (2000): When he was a child, Wilcox said, he recognized Babar as one of the better books, chic and special in its refined simplicity. Many people forget that the book begins with an extremely violent moment. As a little elephant, Babar is riding on his mother's back when she is shot and killed. Babar quickly flees from what was an idyllic world into the town and faces instant acculturation. Upon realizing that he is naked, Babar accepts a purse a woman offers him so that he can buy clothes. Wilcox's film The Little Elephant is about the transition from naiveté to adaptation. Wilcox explains that "his Babar" is the Elephant Man limping through The Man Who Fell to Earth .

Ladies' Room (Twenty Questions) (2002) is structured as a parlor game between the artist and two women he characterizes as female dandies- grande dames who "star" in their lives. The conversations are interspersed with archetypal cinematic scenes featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, and Bette Davis. Wilcox suggests that we all cast our lives in the way a director does—requiring someone to play a particular role. His extraordinarily performative friends personalize iconic film characters, and bring them into his life in an intimate way.

Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson
Phyllis Wattis Matrix Curator

The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by the generous endowment gift of Phyllis Wattis.

Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment, Ann M. Hatch, Eric McDougall, ,Glenn and April Bucksbaum, and Chriss Vroom and Illya Szilak.