Catalogue essay for Brodie Kokkinos, Milk Gallery, Melbourne
𝖍𝖊𝖗 𝖕𝖔𝖙𝖊𝖓𝖙 𝖋𝖊𝖊𝖙 - 𝖜𝖍𝖔𝖘𝖊 𝖙𝖔𝖚𝖈𝖍 𝖆𝖑𝖔𝖓𝖊 𝖋𝖔𝖗𝖒 𝖍𝖔𝖑𝖑𝖔𝖜 𝖕𝖔𝖔𝖑𝖘 by Brodie Kokkinos is an audiovisual portrayal of desire through sinister and Hollywoodised images of feet. The exhibition involves three videos showing femme-presenting feet in high heels and shaved legs, displayed in a state of motion and disembodiment. In one video, three figures are pacing forward in the darkly lit environment of a photographic studio, recalling the chauvinistic cinema that inspired Laura Mulvey to develop her notion of the male gaze. This is because it is shot with seductive intent to wrap the senses in the alluring crepuscule of the frame. Another piece shows one pair in white stilettos rotating in a reflective platform, to sit closer with the language of advertisement. A more elusive video features another pair in black high heels floating in the air while dripping a viscous substance, reminiscent of lubricant. The XII card of The Hanged Man in the Marseilles deck oddly springs to mind, largely due to the ambivalent semiology of Brodie’s image and the emphasis on feet that both figures put forward. Their meaning—like the supernatural figures that contain it—is floating in suspense.
These video works are accompanied by a monologue called Mercurial Monolith that consists of eerie spoken word. This track addresses the listener with sensual yet threatening overtones in lacerating and alien soundscapes. The monologue begins with a linear narrative that positions the hearer as a naked victim in “the room”, then moves onto an abstract and self-reflexive meditation on cameras and work. It brings a disturbing effect to the moving images by charging them with a sense of danger that titillates rather than repel.
The darkness of this scene in tandem with the hyper femininity of the works, peripherally connected with the horror genre through Mulvey’s male gaze, invokes Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013). Where Scarlett Johansson plays an alien—passing as human largely by adopting the codes of desire—that consumes predatory men in a black abyss with the thrust of a rich soundtrack. While the movie trades in a gender binary, it complicates it by featuring an extraterrestrial that exists beyond it. Brodie is inspired by figures that possess similar qualities, such as Aphrodite, who ultimately stands outside the human condition as a deity. Like the floating feet in black stilettos, representation floats in this exhibition to allow for a poetic moment of thought and reconsideration, a dark space to think through the underbelly of visual culture.
In this fracture, I find myself thinking about cinematic surface rather than sociopolitical manifestations. It is obvious that my spectatorship is complicated and flattened as a cis- man but a subtler element is calling me: a simple question about texture. For observing the mechanisms that allow the camera to represent desire with sinister undertones, makes me wonder why is this a shared language that we can decipher. This small question makes me ponder if we are inherently attracted to glossy aesthetics due to the caloric density of glucose—found in substances that bear a natural sheen like honey—which would have ensured our survival (Google it because I sure didn’t). The same could be said of edible oil shining in a bottle to arouse a state of want, as an offer to satiate hunger with rapid fulfilment. This premise of satiation is a basic form of desire that is endlessly repeated in the frame through food advertisements, pornographic imaginings and pop videos.
Brodie also illuminates bodies with stark shadows to create an alluring sense of mystery that elicits curiosity. Like a dark alleyway in a metropolis illuminated by a single neon sign that asks us to yearn for its content despite the palpable risk of proximity. The sinister as a device is a promise corrupted by danger that invokes the instinctual knowledge that something will go wrong. There is a racing heartbeat and an emotional apprehension that is implicit to this lighting, by reminding us of movie scenes where bodies are lit in a similar manner, such as the supporting cast who dies in a slasher film after having sex (to convey a Judeo-Christian moralism of impurity). 𝖍𝖊𝖗 𝖕𝖔𝖙𝖊𝖓𝖙 𝖋𝖊𝖊𝖙 - 𝖜𝖍𝖔𝖘𝖊 𝖙𝖔𝖚𝖈𝖍 𝖆𝖑𝖔𝖓𝖊 𝖋𝖔𝖗𝖒 𝖍𝖔𝖑𝖑𝖔𝖜 𝖕𝖔𝖔𝖑𝖘 recalls these instances to synthesise how cinema and advertisement have developed an audiovisual vocabulary to express perversion and suspense while rejoicing in uncertainty.