You can do this

2012


You can do this - video still




Video loop, 5’26”






Both comic companion and unfortunate physical reverse of the feats performed on ice in the videos Coming Out, Pardon Me, Boy, and Play It Again, You Can Do This shows Sonja Henie with John Payne, her on-screen companion in Sun Valley Serenade, as Payne’s character tries to soothe what seems to be a cramp in her left leg. By playing on the back and forth movements that totally deconstruct the sequence’s visual and sonic flow, the video prolongs the treatment of her cramp, transforming it into a drawn-out torture session magnified by the looping of the video.

The piece’s title offers the opposite of a sentence uttered in protest by Sonja Henie after John Payne rips her pants to better examine her leg: ‘You can’t do this!’ While highlighting the semantic consequences and the fantastical, even magical implications of the backwards movements created by the video, it creates a kind of complicity between the characters, transforming the action into a sadomasochistic ritual punctuated by signs of encouragement and insistence on moderation that the wounded woman regularly addresses to her companion between cries. The romantic codes that contributed to reinforce the videos that use images from the final ballet in Sun Valley Serenade are demolished by the characters’ actions, which propose a kind of burlesque and dramatic counterpoint.

The contraction and stretching of the wounded woman’s leg refers directly to the work taking place in the video through short-circuits, short-cuts in the narrative continuity, and dilution over time. They also resonate with the different figures performed on ice in the ballet sequences and in the logics of construction employed in the other pieces in the series, which, in keeping with the videos from They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, propose other techniques and forms of reflexivity. The work of recycling images is examined here, as is the original film’s resistance to the variations imposed on it.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet