Paulette Phillips
Monster Tree  2006
16mm transferred to DVD, flat screen monitor, 6min loop
Monster Tree   Monster Tree
Monster Tree   Monster Tree
Monster Tree    

Text from the catalogue Repatriating the Ark

Paulette Phillips' art tackles areas of the human psyche that, in today's politically correct and scientifically explained world, are usually denied or repressed. Our voyeuristic obsession with violence is exploited in her 2001 video work, It's About How People Judge Appearances, featuring a woman repeatedly smashing her head against brick wall. Like the irresistible pull of a roadside accident, viewers are drawn to the piece only to find it almost unbearable to watch. Other works combine science with superstitious folklore to emphasise the importance of the inexplicable within our controlled twenty-first century lives: Homewrecker contains a gothic heroine, her hair propelled upwards by an invisible force. Across the gallery space a sheet of chiffon (the classic fancy dress party symbol for a ghost) hangs ominously in space, held by an invisible electromagnetic force.

Hallucination, horror films, fear and pain all intermingle with humour in Phillips' work. Dogwood Pond, 2003, depicts a canoe journey through a marsh where the landscape metamorphoses into animal and planet hybrids. Reflected in the piece is Phillips' method of combining academic research with physical exploration in the development of her work, a quality that reoccurs in her contribution to Repatriating the Ark.

Shot near Niagara Falls, Monster Tree centers on a burl Phillips discovered in an ancient tree. By nature a blemish, caused by an organic reaction, the burl's cheeky expression becomes the animated 'face' of the tree, demonstrating a 'natural' humour, and our fascination with the bizarre. The Falls, long a tourist attraction that shows off the power of nature, also have an extended tradition as a draw to numerous daredevils, hucksters and those entertained by freak shows and haunted houses. Phillips' film reflects all these qualities, expressing our ongoing curiosity with the liminal ethos that resides where the rational and irrational meet. Despite our increasingly obsessive quest for ideal beauty and uniformity, the grotesque and the freakish will never fail to captivate.

(C) Eliza Williams 2006