US artist Josh Azzarella unmakes classic films. He painstakingly extracts all signs of human presence through a frame-by-frame process of digital collage. Familiar scenes are turned into eerie, abandoned wastelands that encourage us to look beyond the content and consider the strange relationship between film, time and memory.
Triple Feature brings together Azzarella’s reconstructions of three creepy classics: F.W Murnau’s Nosferatu (on its 100th anniversary), Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video (on its 40th anniversary), and his newly completed take on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. He sucks the blood and the vampire out of the first vampire film ever made, removes the ‘thrill’ from Thriller, and assists HAL in eliminating all humans from the Discovery 1 spaceship. Only the funk of forty thousand years remains.
Like Robert Rauschenberg deliberately erasing de Kooning’s drawing in 1953, Azzarella’s work contests notions of authorship and the control of culture. By removing all familiar figures and touchstones, Azzarella leaves the spectator alone and vulnerable to the hidden forces lurking in each (and every) film’s background. He ultimately gives much more than he takes away by surfacing questions around how and why we consume films and culture more generally.
Curated by Aaron Lister and Dr Chelsea Nichols as part of their collaboration ‘Curator of Screams’—a series of projects exploring the connections between contemporary art and horror films.
City Gallery Wellington Te Whare Toi, 3 September–27 November 2022, curated with Dr Chelsea Nichols for Curator of Screams