Sunday Night


Sunday night - video still

Video loop, 15 mn 15.

Sunday Night was composed using an iconic scene from Saturday Night Fever. Consisting of a 15 minute and 15 second long loop created from two shots, the video features the character played by John Travolta surrounded by a crowd of admirers as he swings his hips on a nightclub dance floor.

Suggesting a chronological jump forward from the title of the film released in 1977, the title of this video, more than any other piece in the series, incites the spectator to take the dance routine out of its historical context so as to view it with contemporary eyes. It invites the viewer to take measure of how the actor’s movements echo with current behavior in Western societies.

Like Gene Kelly’s performance in Keep Dancin, John Travolta’s is characterized by a swift pace from beginning to end, and the dancer is no less isolated, either -as though he were incapable of attracting a partner. Despite the slightly provocative display of a sexuality whose resonance is reinforced by the acceleration of the video (here, John Travolta would be the stallion referred to by the title of the series), nobody comes to join him on the dance floor. The addition of admiring commentaries, themselves sped-up to fit the circumstances, further contributes to emphasize this fact. After having drawn attention to his agility and his experience, the remarks begin to disengage from the dancer and his virtuosic performance in favor of addressing more prosaic questions, leaving the dancer to wear himself out on the dance floor as though nothing were happening. This detachment reveals a certain informality and indifference, as though the crowd of spectators were incapable of fixing their attention on a single object for very long.

The video’s accelerated rhythm allows the soundtrack to point to certain ambivalences in our societies consumer culture. It condemns the foibles of a constantly accelerating world that prizes performance in such a way that a feat is challenged as soon as it is performed and holds attention for progressively less time. Here we see an expression of the trends of a society that is growing more and more ravenous for leisure and entertainment in parallel with that, through John Travolta’s intensely expressive dancing, of the consequences of a continual search for sexual and emotional novelty.

As with many of the artworks in this series, this piece also considers certain issues in contemporary artistic production. Art today is calibrated to respond to the modes of perception molded by television and video games – it puts increasing importance on the spectacular in order to attract attention and has to seduce the spectator immediately in order to achieve its commercial objectives. Despite the humorous element introduced by accelerating both image and sound, the remarks made off-screen ironically frustrate this humor in Sunday Night, intensifying the commentaries presumably coming from spectators as the work is shown.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet