Blaine Cooper, In The Zone
Rearview Gallery, Collingwood, 5 – 27 March 2010
Walking the darkened narrow corridor toward the gallery space I’m immediately drawn in by the rhythmic drums and the sound of a man’s voice. Light filters down the pathway creating a sense of anticipation, as if I’m heading deep into a nightclub or I’m a boxer about to emerge into a crowded stadium.
Entering the gallery space proper one encounters a dual video projection at either end of the room. It quickly becomes obvious that one is a mirror reflection of the other, putting the viewer in a central no-man’s land between an original and a facsimile. This transitional space renders the viewer as a filter of this passage. The sound is immersive and energetic, a stadium rock riff – Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’, in fact – remixed. The walls are black and the space is lit only by the light of the projections, reinforcing a feeling of being in a nightclub/party/event. A large white schematic is painted on one of the side walls, graphic and symbolic.
The projected video intersplices scenes from the presentation of a motivational speaker with scenes of athletic prowess from basketball players, most notably Michael Jordan. The motivational speaker, an almost caricature of our expectations of such people, in collared shirt and ponytail, sprouts prophetic of intuition and achieving a state of bliss – ‘in the zone’. The mesmerising leaps of the basketball players, presented in slow motion to amplify the sublime nature of their abilities, goes to reinforce this idea of being at one with universal forces.
The business-like flipchart presentation of the speaker and the utilisation of sporting footage, helps to riff on the concept of elevated achievement through competitive advantage. The ascending rhythmic patterns of the electric guitars build this sense of crescendo even further, generating an affective energy on the viewer. Cooper’s use of editing in his video montage works to further heighten the pulsating exhilaration of the piece.
There’s a rough, lo-fi feeling to the work that contributes to its edge and reflects the reality of its component parts. The schematic on the wall, painted roughly with guiding pencil marks not completely covered, echoes the frantic hand-drawn graphs produced by the speaker on his corporate-style flipcharts. The pixellation of the video echoes the ‘youtube’ aesthetic of the source of such imagery. And this speaks to our ultimately unknowable experiences of such universal connections, filtered as they are through our media, lived vicariously through our sports stars and our rock stars. And yet, in darkened rooms, under spells we desperately wish to fall in thrall of, we find ourselves drawn to the throbbing crescendos, to that rhythmic embrace of something more mystical and sublime. Cooper captures an aspect of this and I leave with a more rapid heartbeat, optimistic that one day, under the right conditions, I too might float through space.