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Slater Bradley / MATRIX 216

The Year of The Doppelganger

April 24, 2005 - June 26, 2005

Slater Bradley: The Year of the Doppelganger, 2004 (video still); courtesy of the artist; Team Gallery, New York; and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles.

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

“The doppelganger—a word that literally means ‘one who goes twice’—is the identical replicant, the one who seeks you out, assumes your position in the world, and sets in motion a string of events....When you see your doppelganger, you can count on one of two things: either a barrel of laughs or your imminent death.”—Paul Fleming, “Tripleganger: Slater Bradley’s Doppelganger Trilogy”

Slater Bradley’s recent work features the man he has identified as his doppelganger, his friend Benjamin Brock. However, as Paul Fleming writes of this literary trope, “Whereas the doppelganger traditionally has the upper hand and calls the shots, Bradley seizes the initiative…(to take) possession of his doppelganger, scripting, directing, and producing it.” For The Year of the Doppelganger, his MATRIX exhibition, Bradley has his doppelganger enact his adolescent fantasy of drumming in a massive arena capable of holding thousands of fans. Brock plays the recognizable drumbeat from Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" in Berkeley’s empty Memorial Stadium. The work, produced by BAM/PFA, is specific to its locale, rife with Cal iconography—the script lettering, the blue and gold, and Memorial Stadium itself. The anomaly of seeing this icon of sports replicated in the museum gallery is what intrigues Bradley: “I love the idea of the space in the video becoming a sort of ‘doppelganger’ of the stadium for the many on campus who already know it,” he said.

Brock, the star of the work (playing Bradley playing the star of the work), shirtless to reveal his rock-star thinness, enters the frame walking down the stadium steps. As he starts to drum, the sound ricochets off the bleachers and walls, emphasizing the stadium’s acoustics. The video plays with cinematic devices including a close-up on a clear-blue drum and a pan of the camera tracks that have been placed on the field for the purpose of this filming.

When the Cal football team unexpectedly enters the stadium to practice, competition emerges as a theme. The eventual and inevitable contests of strength, speed, and will, and the sheer size and sculpted physique of the players, reference historical challenges from Roman jousts to the Trojan Wars. Set to the repetitive beat of the drum, the practice of the football players is captured at its most fantastic and mundane. A happenstance celebration of the masculine, The Year of the Doppelganger also acknowledges the artist/sports star parallel.

In Bradley’s earlier work titled Theory and Observation (2002), slow-motion footage of the children's choir of Notre Dame, shot furtively, is layered with a musical soundtrack and voice-over by Stephen Hawking. As a youth in San Francisco, Bradley performed with the Grace Cathedral choir. The anonymous boys and girls captured here, fidgeting and self-consciously expressing their daily reality, can also be seen as Bradley doubles. With the displacement of one identity onto another, unknown people become stand-ins for the artist—both as points of commonality and recognition and as means by which to hide in plain sight.

Bradley’s Doppelganger Trilogy is currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, where it was recently added to the collection. Bradley was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial and has had solo exhibitions at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson; Blum & Poe Gallery, Los Angeles; and Team Gallery, New York.

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 C. Wattis.

Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment, Art Berliner, Glenn and April Bucksbaum, Eric McDougall, Sonja and Michael Saltman, and Christopher Vroom and Illya Szilak.

Special support for Slater Bradley/MATRIX 216 The Year of the Doppelganger has been provided by Wanda Kownacki and John Holton.