Chris Cunningham

September 16–November 1, 2002

This exhibition is a selection of artworks by acclaimed British artist Chris Cunningham in collaboration with musicians Björk and Aphex Twin (Richard D. James). Cunningham utilizes futuristic and sometimes apocalyptic iconography—the demonic characters in Come to Daddy (1997) and Windowlicker (1998) and the humanoid robots in All is Full of Love (1999)—to examine issues of trans-identity. His firm visual style combines the drama of contemporary cinema with the poetics of electronic music.

Rather than enrolling in art school, at age 17 Cunningham began working in the film industry as a special effects model artist and in 1995 began directing music videos. Using the devices of science fiction, horror, and B-movies, Cunningham articulates the mysteries and myths of our accelerated technological age with imagery empowered by humor, wit, and irony.

Come to Daddy
(1997), a video for a track by Aphex Twin, is an unnerving and menacing depiction of demonic androgynous children, all miniature clones of James. As they scurry through city streets, these hellions terrorize innocent passers-by while their emaciated devilish leader is released from a television set. This haunting video addresses the relationship between rebellious youth culture and the institutional mainstream.

Windowlicker (1998), the sequel to Come to Daddy, is set in the palm tree-lined streets of California. This video rejects the ethos of MTV promos, where videos are little more than an index of popular culture. This parody of traditional rap videos features gaudy jewelry, profane language, elaborate dance sequences, and stretch limousines. In this six-minute work, Cunningham dismantles the explicit sexism and tired erotica inherent in promotional videos and addresses socioeconomic realities and gender politics by masking bikini-clad women with Aphex Twin's face.

Cunningham's All is Full of Love (1999) is a video for a song by award winning Icelandic musician Björk. The tenderness and mystery in Björk's vocal style is echoed in Cunningham's imagery. Using Björk's lyrics as his point of departure, Cunningham depicts two humanoid robots being assembled, kissing, and falling in love. The robots, despite their awkward rotating components, perform delicate gestures of human intimacy in a clinical environment. The robots' emotional intensity and sexual tension reverse the science fiction notion of dehumanized machines.

flex (2000–2001), Cunningham's first video as an independent artist, premiered at the Apocalypse exhibition at London's Royal Academy in 2000. Produced with the help of renowned British musician Aphex Twin, arguably the most inventive and influential figure in contemporary electronic music, flex marked Cunningham's entrance into the art world. Cunningham's visuals—along with Aphex Twin's musical score—exemplify the artist's interest in anatomy, figuration, and choreography through images of two nude bodies engaged in physical violence and sexual intimacy.

Although the imagery is abstract, the film's narrative is a structured sequence. From complete darkness, a light unfolds to reveal flesh and bone. Bodies, obstructed by shadows, twist in an amorphous milky light-source trailing slowly into infinity.

 

Chris Cunningham is organized by P.S.1 Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach and P.S.1 Registrar / Project Manager Jeffrey Uslip and is installed in P.S.1's first floor north galleries.

This exhibition is made possible by Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London. Special thanks to the artist and Chiara Bersi Serlini.