HELLO BABY The Training Video
2001, 05:30 minutes, colour, English
These short videos use absurdist performance to break down the notions of security and familiarity implied by training and instructional regimes. A tightly framed female mouth lip-synchs language lessons taught by an authoritarian male voice. The "lessons" are repetitive and reference early training methods for children and adults alike. The material here, however, is in fact appropriated from a record teaching parakeets to talk. The voice is slightly sinister and there is a combination of perversity and bizarre banality. Further, there is disparity between the gender of sound and image and the absurdity of text and context. The isolation of the body part (the mouth) makes the speaker anonymous and the situation more enigmatic. In this way the training tool is abstracted, making something familiar unfamiliar in the juxtaposition of sound and image.
HELLO BABY and SALUT BÉBÉ operate as "companion pieces". When viewed together (French and English) these tapes transform into works about systems of learning and the politics of translation. In SALUT BÉBÉ one sees the performer truly working hard to successfully lip-synch the lessons, obviously struggling to properly mouth the French words, sometimes making unintentional mistakes. You see the mouth actually ‘learning’ as the words are repeated. There is an innocence, perhaps even humour, in these attempts. In HELLO BABY there is a very different lesson happening
as one observes a changing attitude throughout this tape, from cynical to defiant, from amused to angry.
These tapes can be screened as independent works, but are most successful and complex when they are screened one after the other. They begin as comical, and then become more and more disturbing as the lessons continue. The close-up of a woman’s mouth and the slowed-down male voice sexualise an otherwise innocent situation. Thus, this combination of feminine image and masculine sound alternates between being seductive, perverse and threatening.
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