Carter – Erased James Franco
and a bunch of loose ends
posted by Laura Becker
About half way into Carter’s film, James Franco paints a silhouette of his shadow. To be more precise, he draws the outline of his shadow, and then starts to messily fill it in with black watercolor, letting the darkness on his brush seep and seep into the canvas-sized paper thumb tacked to the vulnerable partition wall. This scene, during my last moments of TBA for this whole year, resonated with me for two reasons. One, it’s an eloquent play on the major inspiration for the film, and its title – Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning -which my fellow blogger Cody nicely explains and links to about half way into his review of the film
Second, everything made sense when I found the following on the website from the 2006 Whitney Biennial (which included Carter’s work):

Carter is interested in challenging notions of self-portraiture by making work that acts as a stand-in for an idea of someone. The subsequent second-generation rendering of a person who is already disguised compels us to question our own identity and the many devices we might use to conceal or transform it.

As soon as I read that, I imagined me inside this year’s festival as Don Draper in the animated credits for Mad Men, falling through image after image of corporate pristine nostalgia cloaking messy danger for the masses that’s on its way.
The film dissects gestures, lines and performance tics in perfect pitch with (what I saw in my first official moments of TBA) Miguel Gutierrez’s Last Meadow (also, both include mutated recreations of James Dean). At the same time it provides a dissonant harmony to the beauty in repetition and nuance of Raimund Hoghe’s Bolero Variations. It also inhabits an upper atmosphere in the world of Fawn Krieger’s National Park, reappropriating something real that’s at the same time already a clone of something real.
The movie is also another example of how so much this year played it simple and at the same time disguised. Three dimensions melted into two when they weren’t reduced into cubes. Cutting edge technology was replaced by overhead projectors and pirate radio. Trick-or-treaters and public-access post-apocalyptic paranoids dressed up in costume and masks.
I’m reminded of what Kristan Kennedy said during the first noon-time chat, describing how she felt when she first saw Robert Boyd’s Conspiracy Theory (still at PNCA) between when we were electing and inaugurating Obama and everyone seemed cuckoo for cocoa puffs with hopelessly devoted hope over him. Kristan admitted that she actually had felt totally detached from these feelings. Questioning everybody’s hopeful sentiment, she was thinking “What? Guys, we’re still totally fucked!”
We might not want to see it in this year’s festival, but that sense of paralyzing futility is there. And I think it’s saying, hey, we can open your eyes to it, but it’s you that has to do something about it. Unless you just want to be painting a shadow of what could be there.