28 June 2012 – 22 Jul 2012 · The Substation · Melbourne, Australia
14 July 2012 · PowerPlay · East Hampton, NY, U.S.A
Cigarettes And Bees Knees was a site specific work created for SUB12, a major annual three-month exhibition program presenting newly commissioned work by twelve leading contemporary Australian artists at The Substation Center for Art & Culture in Melbourne, Australia. It was re-configured in July 2012, to participate in PowerPlay at Hayground School in the Bridgehampton, N.Y, U.S.A within a real class setting that was left the way it was found at the end of a school day.
Cigarettes and Bees Knees creates a vignette for the viewer which is created using three separate videos sprawled over three separate gallery spaces. Upon entering the galleries doorway at the Substation, the viewer is confronted by a woman who is projected onto a cut out piece of MDF sitting on a black rug drinking a Bees Knees cocktail. She stares straight at the viewer, watching as the viewer positions him/herself within the space. Red light floods the space from individual household lamps scattered around the room. The woman on the armchair simply sits silently, staring as she drinks her cocktail, daring the viewer to continue through the space and into her world.
The sound of a crowd attracts the attention of the viewer coming from the upstairs mezzanine gallery space. We hear cheers erupt from the crowd and are drawn to investigate. Upon entering the mezzanine space, the viewer is confronted with a gild leaf framed television playing a video of a doll that appears to be still. The crowd noise suggests no one is watching her. Watching a little longer, we notice small changes occurring, such as her hair slowly rising up and the slightest of movements in her dress. The dolls eyes suddenly close. The crowd erupts into cheers as we watch the dolls dress lift up, exposing her undergarments. This strange video loops around as we watch over and over again, the doll re-enacting the same scenario.
Down in the basement gallery, a video is projected onto the back wall. The video is of a cigarette slowly burning out on a table made for two but with only one positioned vacant chair. The industrial setting of this video creates a strange relationship to the basements gallery industrial features and history. On the floor, as if standing and watching the video with us, a girls pair of black Mary-Jane patent leather shoes is positioned on the floor. The emptiness is felt of a body or bodies that is not present.
Following is an extract of the exhibition catalogue written by Ash Kilmartin.
“Santina Amato’s Cigarettes and Bees Knees describes how the artist sees society’s perception of women – three single-channel videos that act together as a triple-lensed projection of female ‘image’. In the main gallery, a projected image of a self-possessed young woman sipping a cocktail is projected onto an MDF ‘flat’ shaped to the silhouette of the woman’s tattooed figure. With vintage-looking hair and a drink as short as her shorts, she stares, looped, at the viewer, surrounded by various domestic lamps with dimmed red bulbs. In the mezzanine gallery, on a gilt- framed monitor, a static shot of a girl doll
is accompanied by the sound of a crowd whose collective cheers rise in sync with the doll’s articulated eyelids and tiny dress. In the basement gallery below, a third video: here, no figure, simply a projected scene of a bare table and chair and an ashtray, holding a burning cigarette. Positioned away from the screen is a pair of little girl’s mary-jane black patent leather shoes. Both video and object want for pointedly lack for the human, presumably female figure.
Each video is a short loop shot on a static camera, and eschews the cinematic conventions of character and narrative. Throughout Cigarettes and Bees Knees, the body is replaced with a projection or a prop, an imagined understudy for an ‘everywoman’. In these video-vignettes Amato considers what constitutes contemporary self-image.” 2012