curated screening presented at
19.07 – 23.07.2017
When Bill Paxton died on February 25, 2017, a cartoon circulated online celebrating a genre film claim that only he and one other actor could make. Paxton had roles in three prevalent sci-fi/horror franchises, in each case being ‘offed’ by the trademarked creature: The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), and Predator 2 (1990). The cartoon depicts forlorn versions of the eponymous characters: a Xenomorph (Alien) pouring out a brown paper bag clad bottle at a grave while Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leather jacketed Terminator stands back to one side, bottle in one hand with the other on heart, the Predator appearing as his gestural bookend. An actor with an expansive career beyond these films, Paxton’s inadvertent achievement in the eyes of genre fans performs as trivia. Some say it stretches facts. Paxton’s blue-haired punk in The Terminator isn’t visibly dispatched by the mission-driven cyborg. In the scene the recently time-travelled Schwarzenegger-bot approaches the punks, fully yet discretely naked. Paxton’s character jokes: ‘Nice night for a walk.’ The lumbering mass of bio-machine repeats: ‘Nice night for a walk.’ Fully dispatched or not, it doesn’t end well for Paxton’s punk.
Aside from the strange meta-mourning for an actor by narratively separated fictional assailants, this cartoon becomes a node of convergence for both fan-fiction and the figure of an actor as holder of fictional traces. Franchised and spreading, these films become reiterated, repurposed in online forums and other media: many nights, many walks. Further to this, actors and their performed characters may become living agents of the fictional beyond the frame. Extrapolated, vertical pathways that variously intersect begin to coexist alongside narratively propelled linearity.
The works in Nice night for a walk sprout from moments of layered media sediment. Their metallic mirrored surfaces reflect back their ossified references, while surrounding and reworking them. Forming pathways to seek its food source, slime mold propels itself through a maze like structure of spiritual significance in RI JIRI I O WA NU RU DAINICHI T-1000 (Jenna Sutela). The vibrant green tendrils, working as a decentralized system, secure efficient routes. Like a highlighter pen, their growth traces a map for the survival of the whole, which is paralleled in clips from Terminator 2 where globs of T-1000 seek to reform to complete its mission: liquidity continually morphs around danger, becoming dangerous, unstoppable. Footage from another Schwarzenegger vehicle, The 6th Day, is loosened and reworked in WEAKEND (Daniel Cockburn). Following the inference of the source film’s title, a calendar structure is imposed: the creationist metaphor applied to the sci-fi narrative of cloning is broadened to consider the relationship of an artist to materials. In this case, video clips and editing are divinely employed until the acting agent within the frame makes a Promethean gesture towards self-actualization. A payphone becomes the locus for an unraveling tale in The Hollow Coin (Frank Heath). The boundaries of a system fading from operation and memory are tested as the protagonist speaks to the complaints department about a ‘coin’ lost in the phone used by the caller. Intrigue mounts as the false coin is revealed to contain footage on a SD card: a phone booth in a field that erupts in flames. The protagonist needs the fake coin back, after using it to pay for their present call; a paradoxical time loop reminiscent of Terminator 2 is introduced. Sparking embers of molten metal transplant and dissolve the archaic phone box in the nickel’s footage, just as they claim the heroic cyborg of the referenced film: lowering with a thumb up to a future dystopia unwritten.
RI JIRI I O WA NU RU DAINICHI T-1000, Jenna Sutela, 2016, 2:15
WEAKEND, Daniel Cockburn, 2003, 7:15
The Hollow Coin, Frank Heath, 2016, 12:13
Part of the screening series: Resting Transmissions / Eyes Above, Bodies Below / Nice night for a walk presented at The Ryder, London, 05.07 – 23.07.2017.
*Programme notes available here.
*Programme notes for the entire series available here.
*Reference image: Bill Paxton Tribute cartoon/meme available here.