Skip to main content
Lux OnlineHomeThemesArtistsWorkEducationEducationToursHelpSearch
Artists Artist's home pageArtists essay index page
Sotiris KyriacouClick here to Print this Page
Cordelia Swann
Swann's embrace of fantasy in general and cinema in particular is evident throughout her work in different ways.

Central to one strand of her work is the direct quotation of short sequences of melodrama from Hollywood films and television, where moments of emotional or visual intensity and kitsch are manipulated and re-articulated through repetition, re-filming, close-up and superimposition, to accentuate their intensity.

A film still from King Creole provides the raw material for The Ten Commandments of Love (1979). The image, of an embrace between Elvis and his co-star Carolyn Jones - and the heightened emotions it depicts - is put in quotation marks by Swann. By handpainting different parts of the background and figures in different copies of the stills and filming them, Swann creates an almost stroboscopic animated effect, to the tune of 'The Ten Commandments of Love' by Harvey and the Moonglows. Hollywood's paradigm of heterosexual coupling infuses the film yet is constantly at odds with the flatness of the manipulated image.

Passion Triptych (1983) makes use of three different sequences from the then popular television police series Hill Street Blues recorded on VHS tape. Swann re-filmed the sequences on Super-8 in slow motion, creating a three screen semi-abstracted, colour-saturated triptych. The images depict men and women in ambiguous situations of embrace or violence, creating a frieze of charged scenes whose effect is heightened by overlaying the original soundtracks with the wailing of police sirens and other sound effects. Jim Divers with whom Swann collaborated closely between 1979-1984 mixed the sound.

In a precursor to scratch video, Lust for Life (1983) goes to town with Vincent Minelli's overblown take on 'high' art. Kirk Douglas' rather extravagant portrayal of Van Gogh, the archetypal zany modern artist, is subjected to the scratch treatment. Repetition, syncopation and disruption of syntax serve to accentuate less the almost mythical intensity and 'madness' of Van Gogh but, rather, mainstream culture's interpretation of it.

By isolating and reworking these differently saturated and intense moments, Swann reminds us of our persistent fascination with spectacle and narrative whilst at the same time insisting on the artifice and constructedness of these fragments.

Still from The Ten Commandments of Love by Cordelia Swann, 1979
Go to top of                             page