ARTLIFE, Australia (June 2006)

Sci Fi Space
An artfully programmed compliment to the Biennale is Custom Living, the new exhibition by Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro at Gallery Barry Keldoulis. [...]

Our visit to GBK was not, however, primarily motivated by the Healy and Cordeiro show. We saw the words “science fiction” and “CCTV” in a gallery press release and we were down there like a shot. Austrian artist Manu Luksch has a four monitor video installation called Faceless screening at GBK. Living and working in London, Luksch discovered that under UK law, anyone caught on tape by one of that country’s countless CCTV cameras has the right to request footage of themselves. Getting at the footage is hard work because although it is available the authorities resist requests, probably realising that if everyone asked for their footage, then the whole security apparatus that relies on the cameras would be useless. When you can actually get a hold of the footage everyone but the person [or persons] requesting the footage has their faces blocked out by black dots. Luksch hatched a plan to create a narrative video work by performing certain actions in locations covered by CCTV and then requesting the footage, editing it together and creating the finished work.

Faceless is possibly one of the best narrative video art pieces we’ve seen in a long time. The artist’s narrative is a winsome, low key affair that winds up in a high stepping dance number on the windswept forecourt of a London housing estate. Yet although its fictive space is somewhat wonky [set in 2030 the readouts on the screens clearly state it was shot in '05], the work has an incredible presence because Luksch has used one system of image capture to create a work for which that system was clearly not intended. The warping of the security apparatus for the aesthetic and joyful intervention of the artist upsets the law-and-order imperative of CCTV, and her play with the time frame of the work and its images redeploy the various technical aspects of CCTV to the disposal of the artist. It is both a humorous and soft centered work that still manages to evoke the dread of so many low res images awash through he web and mainstream media. We were half expecting some bland, grey scene of a truck passing or a person entering a tube station to suddenly erupt in the staggered crimson frames of a terrorist explosion, yet the work resists the sensational for the everyday and becomes all the more miraculous because of it.