By Harry Dodge
In This Beast Called Force, a character of unstable identity (and uncertain gender) is videotaped while sitting in a room with the television on. Instructed to be as “free” and “loose” as possible, this test subject spars with the TV images that flow by (weather reports, horror movies, etc.), offers harebrained theories about human digestion and magic brown dwarves, and describes and acts out disturbing movie scenarios. This volatile figure sports three grotesque masks, each marking a different persona: one appears to be made out of elaborate, flowery foam; another, a paint-smeared tote bag; the last, a torn white acrylic fur rug. Whether the character(s) are cogent and articulate or lost in nonsense and stutter, they plunge us into a sustained wrangle with forces that remain unnamable, unclassifiable.
On a formal level, This Beast Called Force combines performativity with hypnotic and sometimes disturbing visual collage, forcing questions about the condition of spectatorship and viewer response. On a thematic level, the video’s principal subject is the fright and fascination inspired by the truly unknown, unknowable, or alien. The films Dodge’s character(s) here collages and reacts to — Solaris, E.T., Stand By Me, and Lord of the Flies — are all classic meditations on this theme. The titular “beast” at times seems to refer to the mysterious subject performing; at others, to the strong forces that control our existence but remain fundamentally beyond our comprehension or control.