Vox Populi, Philadelphia
Over the past decade, Australian artist Tracey Moffatt has collaborated with editor Gary Hillberg to create a series of fast-paced videos that use fragmentary clips – seemingly culled from an encyclopedic VHS collection – to construct grand narratives about race, sex, nature and power. The seventh and last video in this cycle, Other, charts onscreen encounters between white actors and a bewildering array of Hollywood’s racial tropes: spear-wielding islanders, veiled harem dancers, idol-worshippers and noble savages. The piece moves in an arc from initial, apprehensive fascination (Martin Sheen moving upriver in Apocalypse Now) to white hands tentatively reaching out and touching brown skin (such as that of David Gulpilil in Walkabout).
This catalog of images of otherness, all of them seemingly constructed for the titillation of a straight, white, probably male viewer, soon disintegrates into a final riotous orgy of transgression and miscegenation (Fellini’s Satyricon makes an appearance here) as volcanoes erupt and planets explode. Self and other, subject and object, become hopelessly intertwined, and the carefully plotted coordinates of desire give way to images of polymorphous perversity and joyful apocalypse.