david noonan and simon trevaks

the likening
200 Gertrude Street, Melbourne
8-30 June, 2001

The Likening is the first video installment in David Noonan and Simon Trevaks's trilogy which is exploring supernatural themes. Sourcing the horror genre, the video consists of a lone female protagonist wandering through a potent environment toward a climatic confrontation of self-realisation, yet at the crucial point of recognition and discovery, resolution is suspended. The protagonist's psychological quest is caught in a loop of frustration, creating the illusion of a meeting with the self that results in an evocative ambivalence of identity and a sense of mysterious, perpetual metamorphosis. Exploring the theme of the double, an archetype in dreams, the protagonist's trance-like state evokes a sense of 'dreaming awake', situating the images somewhere between the living and dead, past and present. Here, the protagonist remains poised uneasily in a mysterious spatial and temporal zone that shifts between narration and documentation. Noonan and Trevaks approach their subject matter according to elementary scenes and a minimal cinematic syntax, accentuating an open-field, a scenario of ambiguities that implicates viewers in the never finished process of creating the meaning of the work. This appears as a defining characteristic in the artists' previous video collaborations where the interest seems to lie in what transpires between image and viewer, and not in the end product, thereby endlessly deferring cinematic expectation.

Exploring the strange and cryptic world of the doppelganger provides the premise for The Likening, where reality dissolves into a duality-exterior evidence versus interior perception of that reality. Adopting their signature loop printing, Noonan and Trevaks compress time and evoke tension, examining issues of simultaneity and seduction, the uncanny and supernatural, horror and humour, pleasure and desire. In conjunction with the protagonist's zombie-like reverie, the video is filmed in a mannered pace that slowly and eerily records the protagonist's subjectivity as she faces the unknown, an interiorised void. Her absorbed movements respond to unseen forces that echo through the room summoning a powerful supernatural resonance, that transcends the world of the corporeal.

Space is traversed physically and psychologically, implying an evocation into the realm of possibility and duality, a dialectic that explores a space of tension and becoming. As the soundtrack peaks, the protagonist enters another room. The maze of doors intensifies a symbolic, layered space that heightens a transitional, uncanny spatial conformation, a representation of a mental state of projection that elides the boundaries of the real and unreal in order to provoke a disturbing ambiguity. This sequence produces a mirroring effect that asserts the duality of being, serving as a study of the self as observer and observed, while affirming each in reverse and as positive and negative. Noonan and Trevaks have develop a haptic quality in their presentation of the point-of-view shots, that explores psychological dimensions of contemplation while heightening spaces of desire. The audience remains transfixed in the role of witness, and this becomes particularly evident in the closing shot that shows the protagonist as she turns toward the audience, and maintains an almost glacial, extended eye contact. This directness of the gaze signals an awareness of the presence of the audience while simultaneously exposing the voyeuristic nature of watching. Noonan and Trevaks explore the relationship between the seen and unseen, evoking a terror that is poised in anticipation, intensifying a silent fear that seems imperceptible yet palpable.

Throughout the video, Noonan and T revaks deploy an overt recognition of filmic artifice and exaggerated modes of story telling. The use of the dated portrait that accompanies the show acts as a reminder of the construction of an elaborate fiction, referencing its mode of operation and its stageability. The mise-en-scene recalls an environment untouched by time, heightening the sense of stasis while the soundtrack contributes to an ominous, rhythmic tone that hints at a 1970's aura (reminiscent of Dario Argento films). Noonan and Trevaks frustrate narrative transitivity and viewer identification to instead concentrate on creating mood and place that intensifies the viewing experience. As the protagonist embarks on a psychological journey, she encounters sights as if they were capable of revealing the mystery of the self, and this becomes apparent in the exhibition production still, where the chandelier acts as a familiar object that takes on disquieting qualities. Much of the video's seductive and bewildering appeal is attributed to the laborious direction that is more concerned with creating a style and ambience, a purely image driven narration.

Noonan and Trevaks activate a problematic mode of reception that simultaneously situates viewers in an overtly contrived, theatrical space while also transporting them into believing this reality. Despite being aware of attempts to expose cinematic illusion we nevertheless fall prey, captivated and willing in our suspension of disbelief, delighted and spellbound for the inevitable conclusion that is cruelly negated. Spectators remain in a state of anxiety, fascination and bewilderment, where desire and pleasure become an effect, a contested issue that remains in an endless cycle where truth is contradicted by the fallibility of appearances. Noonan and Trevaks's video deconstructs conventional narrative demands to instead explore the medium itself as a vehicle for sustaining a dialogue with human subjectivity and interiority. Consistent with their previous collaborations, The Likening resists specific interpretation or resolution to instead revel in obscurity and aperture. The video occupies a space of tension and anticipation that simultaneously oscillates between transparency and opacity, tactfully exploiting cinematic effects to create an evocative cinema of suggestion.