HIS HIGHNESS IN A DITCH – Tova Mozard at 1646 in The Hague

Image by Jhoeko

Tova Mozard’s His Highness in a Ditch opened this Friday at 1646, an independent exhibition space run by a group of Hague artists. The gallery boasts itself to host international, experimental artists of all mediums, making it hard to describe exactly what the gallery stands for. However, this question might be irrelevant. Given a globalized, high-speed universe, one inevitably faces an identity crisis in trying to make meaning out of it. Perhaps that is why Mozard’s work fits so well with the gallery, as her art deals with the possibilities of constructing narratives and identities in an absurd, chaotic universe.

Advertised as a video installation, it would be more accurate to call the exhibition an ongoing screening of two short movies. Indeed, the space simply consists of two large screens on either side of the gallery, the movies on a loop from a projector above, a small podium placed in front of each screen to sit on for the visitors. The videos, about 20 minutes each, allow one to think that this could easily be the work of a film student. No room for distractions in the form of cuts of plastic dolls, dead fish, or experimental exposures. In the case of Mozard’s work, the lack of experimental production styles is key, as it enables the spectator to fully engage with the subjects of the video. 

Positioned on either side of the gallery, the two movies are self-contained. However, both elicit a reminiscence of absurd theatre. Beckett staged on film. On one side of the gallery, a man is digging a grave (we are never revealed why) and recounting the events of his life as he progresses. A monodrama in black and white, the arbitrary recounting of his life’s events are somewhat similar to Krapp’s Last Tape by Beckett. The arbitrary need to preserve something that we arbitrarily deem worth persevering. In the case of the grave digger, the series of unfortunate events leading up to this time. His collection of sad events and his redemption through it creates the identity of the person we now see on screen.

While images of grave digging filmed with a black and white filter might seem like a slightly obvious metaphor to life, the second screening seems to be more nuanced, confusing, and highly entertaining. Two men dressed in cop uniform, wandering through the Hollywood Hills. The men are identical and one wonders if it is the same person edited into the images (we are revealed in the description of the exhibition that they are indeed identical twins). Roaming around the hills, that seem to have a forest fire progressing in the background, the two identical cops blunder about engaging in repetitive dialogues next to each other about poison ivy, forest trash, and metaphysical questions.

“ I think we can do anything we want.

Really?

Then why aren’t we doing anything, you know what I mean?

You mean, like..?

We don’t have to do anything but we can do anything. We can do anything we want to.

Why aren’t we doing anything then?

The parallel dialogue is reminiscent of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and so is the physical comedy. The two men supposedly practicing their role as cops, they engage in drawn out scenes of practicing how to arrest each other and look at a dead body.

“Is she dead?

Yeah, look at her.

Do we know if it’s a woman?

Have they identified her?

Yeah, don’t you see it’s a woman? Its always a woman.”

Mozard’s exhibition raises questions of identity, playfully and melodramatically. Are you the sum of all your failures? Can you gain redemption by facing these failures? Alternatively, what happens when you take away these personal narratives and just go through the motions? Besides the absurd comedy of Mozard’s Beckettian cops, just like Vladimir and Estragon, Mozard’s two cops turn into metaphors of the human condition- such as the scripted nature of identities and the limitations of self-definition within these structures. Mozard’s transportation of 20th century theatre into contemporary video makes her work engaging, entertaining, and socially relevant in the most fundamental sense.   Dorothy  Marton   21st September 2019

The exhibition continues until 13th October

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