Beauty Plus Pity (2009 15min)
The contemporary fables of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby propose that existence is abject, farcical, and messy. In their richly textured videos, Duke and Battersby employ live action footage, scavenged images, and simple animations to create episodic structures that evince a simultaneously utopian and dystopian world view.
‘Beauty Plus Pity’ sets a colourful single-channel video within a lush viewing environment populated by costumed taxidermic animals. Presented in seven parts, the video considers the potential for goodness amidst the troubled relations between God, humanity, animals, parents and children. While an animated cast of animal “spirit guides” quote Philip Larkin’s poem, This Be the Verse, and implore us to “get out as early as you can” from life and our parents’ grasp, a hunter dreams of a zoo where he might lie next to tranquilized animals calmed of their savagery. A senile and unstable God stumbles, forgets to take his medication, and turns frost into diamonds. ‘Beauty Plus Pity’ contemplates the shame and beauty of existence; it is part apologia, part call to arms.
Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure (2006, 14min) marks our return to the episodic structure of our earlier works Rapt and Happy, Being Fucked Up and Bad Ideas for Paradise. As with earlier works, Songs of Praise takes on difficult, often painful subject matter. Themes of addiction, violence, the destruction of the natural world and the agonies of adolescence are woven through the work.
“anything but depressing… [it is founded in] a sense of wonder at the endearing weirdness of life and all the vulnerable, furry little creatures immersed in it (especially us).” Sarah Milroy The Globe and Mail
“a moving yet relentless experience of contemporary life (human and biological) in the face of moral, physical and environmental degradation” Emily Jones, Catalogue Essay, Songs of Praise for the Heart Beyond Cure, Dalhousie Art Gallery, 2007
“…a series of pagan hymns that unearth slight but potent saving graces amid seemingly inescapable pain and anguish.” Jon Davies, Canadian Art, Fall 2006
Bad Ideas for Paradise (2001, 20 min)
Steve Reinke on Bad Ideas for Paradise: “There is no such thing as self-esteem. Self-esteem as a construct is illogical and contradictory, so its frequent deployment as the lynch-pin of New Age discourse seems to me satisfyingly appropriate. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have frequent bouts of self-loathing. There is something truly monstrous about the self-righteous. Eating a well-balanced diet is a horrible act of aggression. Whenever I hear the word “culture” I think of bacteria mutating under an ultraviolet light and I’m happy again for a while. Within the petri dish: unfettered egoless desire, the proliferation of new possibilities ideas made flesh, uncaring and finally airborne. Empathy is a tool for making the cruelty more precise. Beauty is independent of taste; the sublime only works for suckers. Whenever I laugh I feel guilty.”
Bad Ideas for Paradise is a 20-minute episodic videotape. Funny, touching and ambitious in scope, Bad Ideas continues to deal with many of the themes addressed in Duke and Battersby’s earlier works: addiction, spirituality, identity, relationship dynamics and the ongoing quest for joy.