BY Verena Kuni in Reviews | 01 JAN 99
Featured in
Issue 44

Georgina Starr

BY Verena Kuni in Reviews | 01 JAN 99

Dial S-T-A-R-R (remember Johan Grimonprez' Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y ?) and check in for another hijacking: 'After stealing an airplane and shooting all its passengers the girl falls to earth with her parachute and lands on a small pony's back in the middle of Starrwood. In Starrwood she finds it's easy to steal beauty and although the Starrwood Hills are a lonely place, for a girl who is in love with her pony, life is quiet and good'. The story may initially sound like a bizarre mixture of fairy tale and girls' romance, but Georgina Starr makes it absolutely clear that she is not going for a straight dose of girlism. Of course Starrwood is a dream factory: a surreal stage set, where the sky and the foliage swap colours, the laws of gravity are negated (the film's heroine can leap fences and hedges in a single bound, even without her pony) and the fairy-tale castle has knee-high battlements and stands on a mound of artificial grass. The watercolour panoramas of the Starrwood islands mingle the sticky sweetness of Disneyland scenarios with petit-bourgeois camping idylls and well-mannered, carefully-guarded beach club holiday pleasures à la Club Med. This is presented as though it is the most natural thing in the world.

Starr has cheerfully dismissed all the tiresome extras that typically inhabit these settings, dispatching them rather like the unfortunate Tourist Class hostages on Starrwood Airlines, so that the stage remains free for a highly individual presentation of her own fantasies: 'I'm gonna have my own party one of these days, that'd be cool, imagine a party with just me and the atmosphere...'. As with The Party (1995), the ephemeral structures of social communication are completely stripped away so that Starr can use the remaining material to create a model scenario for conversations with herself.

Anyone who wants a place in her cosmos must be ready to accept only a walk-on part. This approach links Starr with a whole series of artists of her generation who draw on autobiographical material in the same sort of way and charge it with set pieces from trash and pop culture to create a more or less complex artistic cosmos in which they take centre stage. These private worlds' power of conviction derives from their degree of articulation and consistency, rather than mere accumulation.

So it makes sense for Starr to restrict herself to very few props for her Frankfurt exhibition: the photos and watercolours are arranged around the central video installation as a two-dimensional frame. At first they seem to relate to the accompanying scenography in a rather muted fashion, but despite this, Starr succeeds in almost effortlessly creating more than just a static storyboard. This is due not least to the listening booth placed deliberately with its entrance facing the projector stand. If you sit down in the gleaming pink interior of the little sound capsule - it is rather like being inside an advert - you can listen to four easy-on-the-ear, soft-pop Pony songs on headphones. Their lyrics tell little stories from the world of Starrwood. You can also see the wood through the little window, which gives you a quite different perspective: the images in the gallery space and the video screen fuse together. The fine-tuned synergy of Pony pop and viewing the installation through rose-coloured spectacles transforms Starrwood into a reality.

For the opening of her German 'Starrwood' performance, the artist, with her Pony partner Oliver Hangel, did us the honour of a live appearance, galloping into the heart of the otherwise aloof Frankfurt art scene. But then you had to go back into the listening booth - the best seats in the house - for the associated karaoke, and to enjoy the full Starr-o-rama while avoiding the 'potent cocktails made from octopus pee' that were being served in the Hawaiian style bars.

In the meantime, the refrain of the first Pony song drilled its way into your ears with gentle certainty: 'It's so easy to steal beauty' - and you really do begin to hum along with it. As in fairy-tales and girls' novels, a short break in Starrwood has a happy ending. It certainly is easy to steal beauty - especially if you know how to concentrate it.

Translated by Michael Robinson