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Untitled (The Trials and Tribulations of Mickey Baker)

Sutapa Biswas
1997 (Re-edited and remastered 2002)
10 mins video

Untitled (The Trials and Tribulations of Mickey Baker)

Biswas depicts a white man, past his prime, bathed in the light of an ordinary domestic window.

In Untitled (The Trials and Tribulations of Mickey Baker, Sutapa Biswas continues to engage with ideas of temporality, stillness, and the relationship between the moving image and painting. First shown at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London in 1997, after which it was installed at Tate Modern, London (2002-2003), this video work presents us with an image of a portly late middle-aged man, naked and standing in a furnished room. He rocks slightly on his feet as he breathes, and leaves stir in sunlight outside the window in front of which he stands, making shadows on the rug beneath the feet of the naked man. There is little other movement and no sound as the tape loops and begins again.

''Recently…Biswas has produced a number of scenarios in which time almost stands still…There is an obvious paradox in using a kinetic medium to portray something that is barely moving. In fact the oxymoron 'static movie' is a fruitful nonsense as oxymorons often are. The phenomenon was famously adopted by Andy Warhol in films like his Empire (1964, a seven-hour fixed camera shot of the Empire State Building). In the movie sense time stands still, but in the ' real' sense time is seen passing…Biswas has spoken of her desire to slow time down…. [she] herself has asked, ''how to weigh a sense of time?…how to give time its true weight?'' ..''in one sense film rediscovers the condition of painting, but there is still all the difference in the world between the film of a subject that keeps still and a still painting or photograph. The difference lies in a way of conveying ' life'.''
Guy Brett, 'Spaces Inside Time', in Sutapa Biswas, published by the Institute of International Visual Arts, London, and the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, Portland, Oregon, pp. 42-43.

Biswas' choice of subject reverses the traditional power relationship between artist and model. As Richard Dyer has commented, 'the ultimate position of power in a society that controls people in part through their visibility is that of invisibility, the watcher. Consequently, the visual arts present the perspective of 'a white male character scrutinising, appraising and savouring black and/or female characters', far more frequently than vice versa. Biswas portrays the figure as 'undressed' and vulnerable, passively waiting and available to our gaze.
From Tate Online Project, http://www.tate.org.uk/tarzantorambo/sutapabiswas.htm.

Untitled (The Trials and Tribulations of Mickey Baker) was commissioned by the South Bank Centre, London.

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