A Commentary on Genre

Random Lengths News | September 15, 2006
The photos featured in Doug Henry’s The Collaborators posters were the first clue that something different was taking place here. Scanning across the selection of photos, movie quality stills of familiar faces at locations that were even more familiar but different, the effect is the feeling of a collective San Pedro pulse being revealed. The artist admits, “My goal would be to devise a method.”

The Collaborators, which opened September 9, is in fact a video production that explores genres through the use of seductive imagery, graphics and lighting. Henry began to put together the installation when he was offered the opportunity to fill the space at the Warschaw Gallery on Sixth Street. But not wanting to start, “with one of the many ideas that just POPS in my head,” he started to search for a process beyond the signature of his own hand.

“Presented with the opportunity to fill this distinctive space I inventoried the contents of my … brain for a stepping off point,” said Henry. He stumbled across a book entitled, the Modern Genre Theory, which defined the term “genre” as the definition to deny the autonomy of the author and to deny uniqueness of the text and more.

The Collaborators loops non-narrative footage of various genres just long enough for the viewer to get a first impression reaction in much the same way one gets perusing obvious film categories at the video store, emblazoned with the words “killer,” “blood,” or “murder” with some sort of monster or deranged person on the DVD jacket for Horror films.

While sleekly presented in an avant noir style, each vignette is a superb niche in the ten main genres commonly placed on the video shelf, reflecting as the artist insists on something similar to the ten Aristotelian categories of reality. So convincing are each piece that the satire can be misconstrued, enveloping the viewer to take seriously the lack of story consumed entirely by the jacket of the genre. The clips or episodes are like TV commercials without the brand names.

Henry’s inspiration for the show came from a trip to his local video store to return a late DVD. “Eureka!”, he said. “Next to Aristotle’s list of ten categories I would posit a list of the ten sections of the video store.”

Henry explained that to complete this film, “The first step was to go into the community of San Pedro and enlist the participation of a group of bright, interested and fearless friends, acquaintances and strangers with whom to collaborate.” Henry couldn’t have found a better cast, which included artists: Craig Keith Antrim, Arnee and Ray Carofano, Ron Linden; Chuck Arick, a tile contractor; Roger Brimner, a longshoreman, Scott Brown; Marilyn Young, a musician/teacher and others. None of which were actors.

The Gallery served as host site and location with the surrounding community providing the players. Each genre, including action, science fiction, comedy, drama, foreign, children, classic, new release, special interest, and “porn” became a kind of garment given to shape by the wearer- in this case, the people and place that contribute their appearance and personality to make the film.”

Henry’s strategy references and perpetuates the idealism of the early 20th century Russian Avant Guard’s evolution from Suprematism to Constructivism and Productivism, which is the evolution of art into a political and propaganda voice. Self expression, individuality and originality gave way to a new consciousness dedicated to legibility, community and common purpose. The Collaborators is less about seeing the hand of the artist making the film or a statement than it is about the collaboration of the people with the artist. Within the current national context of media use for political propaganda, this work is a serious critique of how the medium is used.

Henry is a graduate of Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and his work has been shown nationally and internationally. Earlier this year he showed his Day for Night at the Whitney Biennial in New York.

The Warschaw Gallery continues to lead San Pedro galleries in modern and abstract art that has nurtured and promoted the ideas of innovative artists from both inside and outside the community. Los Angeles filmmaker Doug Henry’s work will continue at Warschaw Gallery, 600 South Pacific Ave. in downtown San Pedro through October 28.

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