Archive: Issue No. 68, April 2003

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REVIEWS /KWA-ZULU NATAL

Carol-anne Gainer

Carol-anne Gainer
Embedded,2003
installation viep>

Carol-anne Gainer

Carol-anne Gainer
Embedded, 2003
installation view

Carol-anne Gainer

Carol-anne Gainer
Embedded, 2003
video still of urination

Carol-anne Gainer

Carol-anne Gainer
video still from the installation 'Embedded'


'Embedded' a suburban installation by Carol-anne Gainer
by Virginia Mackenny

On an April evening, as darkness fell and the lights of suburbia slowly flickered on, an unusual bedroom in a suburban garden was illuminated. Situated in a metre deep pit, newly dug with raw earth floor, a neat white bed with sheet turned down was exposed to the sky. Seen in the glow of a small bedside lamp and the flickering light of a TV showing the image of a squatting white woman urinating into the red of African soil, the room provided a variety of ambivalent readings.

Two of the walls of the room were covered in white embossed wallpaper evoking, along with the tidy bed and a delicately embroidered cloth under the lamp, a careful domesticity. This contrasted with an old, much used, fading rug and a chair, once broken, crudely mended. Water seeped from a perforated metal pipe running around the periphery of the excavation. Running down the two unembellished mud walls it glistened, echoing the stream of urination and, as the evening progressed, eroding the edges of the chamber.

This 'bunker' dug into the earth appeared, at first, to signal a protective refuge but became the sanctuary of a certain absurd madness. A place of delusion, threatened as it was by the water seepage and exposed as it was to the elements. The woman urinating did so slowly and deliberately, through her red underwear - pissing in her pants - a sign of fear or of social rebellion? Women, after all, are not meant to pee in public - that is the prerogative of men. Peeing claims territory but here the urination is in a domestic interior (albeit one that is outside) - an act that seems to dirty rather than claim space.

Better known for her performance art pieces, Gainer here performs in public in absentia. Pissing into the earth she leaves a neat penetrative hole in the soft soil - one that mirrored the larger cavity of the room. A male act or female one? Or a confusion of the two? Anxious and uncertain, the piece was unsettling in its ambivalence. Failing to offer conclusive interpretations it did not, however, fail to intrigue.

Blurring boundaries is a consistent concern of Gainer's production and here they continued to dissolve. Different realities seemed to intersect with each other producing conflicting readings. Interpolating the literal with the symbolic she exposed this common suburban environment as safe/unsafe, exposed/contained, placed/displaced.

This installation was available for viewing on one night only, at 6.00 p.m on April 9 at 39 Goodricke Ave, Morningside, Durban.

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