3-channel HD video installation, color, 5.1 audio, 35:54 min
What is Perverse is Liquid, the fourth episode of A.K. Burns (b. 1975, California) science fiction epic Negative Space that explores water as a metaphor and critical resources thru themes of death, transmission and transformation.
Burns aims to create a feminist critique of artist Marcel Duchamp’s voyeuristic installation Étant donnés (1946–66) by structuring the film as a series of interfaces including peepholes, portholes, computer screens, and other visual “leaks.” The video crescendos as a performer lies prone, referencing the nude featured in Duchamp’s work but instead rejecting the viewer’s gaze by reflecting the sun back into their eyes.
The artist also draws references from tarot—the 13th major arcana or death card, associated with the astrological water sign Scorpio—appears in the film as an animate skeleton. In an abandoned IBM office building, the skeleton haunts various rooms while three teenagers simulate office work of another era. Inside this post-productive waste land they meticulously labor smelting pennies and stripping the building of copper, a highly valuable and conductive material.
In a scene taking place in a limestone mine, a musician sings a ballad of a torrid love affair with water that polarizes in absence and excess. Outdoors in a swamp, two performers engage in a call and response with the sounds of their surroundings, slowly evolving their chirps into the words “unsoothable thirst is another kind of haunting.”
[All texts in What is Perverse is Liquid are culled from Natalie Diaz’s 2020 book Postcolonial Love Poem. The video features an original musical performance by Geo Wyex, who appears as his own character, Muck Studies Dept.]
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