BY Kristin M. Jones in Reviews | 04 MAR 05
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Issue 89

Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler

BY Kristin M. Jones in Reviews | 04 MAR 05

Video artists may find inspiration in Alfred Hitchcock’s admission that he was more concerned with creating emotion and atmosphere than with narrative plausibility and logical causality. In creating their video works the team of Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler attempt something especially difficult: to combine a distillation of the emotional texture of classic Hollywood cinema with a strong sculptural element. They begin with the thread of a rational story, then, as Birchler has put it, ‘usually confront the narrative with an illogical spatial or temporal situation’. The artists began their collaborative career as sculptors, then proceeded to photography and video, and they have incorporated aspects of all three in each, including in their latest video, House with Pool (2004), an ambitious 20-minute loop in which two women seem to haunt one another as they move inside and outside a mid-20th-century Modernist house in an affluent Texas suburb.
Like some of the pair’s earlier works, House with Pool glancingly alludes to films by various directors, including Hitchcock, a particular favourite. In their videos they often employ gliding tracking shots and sometimes charged close-ups of objects, hands and faces; in a couple of videos and in the photographic series ‘Filmstills’ (2000) they have followed Hitchcock’s lead by casting coolly attractive blondes, although they do so to ambiguous effect: they don’t fetishize these actresses, but the women carry a whiff of suspense simply by echoing the women in some of his thrillers. Their work also sometimes calls to mind David Lynch, with his Möbius-strip-like narratives, glowing nocturnal palette and intimations of death and decay lurking in everyday environments – although Hubbard and Birchler use abstract devices to suggest obsessive behaviour or psychological trauma.
House with Pool follows a number of more concise video loops for which the artists constructed elaborate sets to frame the recursive action and camerawork. Birchler has remarked: ‘We build spaces that suggest psychological tension, where there is a slippage between inside and outside, past and present.’ In the eerie Eight (2001), for example, a little girl in a party dress peers out of a window at darkness and pouring rain, then walks outside – as the camera seems to

Kristin M. Jones writes about art and film for publications including Film Comment and the Wall Street Journal. She is based in New York, USA.