A Review of Candice Breitz: Factum (Edited Version)

12 February- 20 March 2010

White Cube Hoxton Square

Candice Breitz’s exhibition: Factum exposes the viewer to the personal histories, stories, and impressions of four pairs of twins, and one pair of triplets, all living in Canada. According to the White Cube press release, the exhibition takes its name from two seemingly identical paintings by Robert Rauschenberg titled Factum I and II (1957); Breitz’s video diptych (and one triptych) manage to highlight the differences (as opposed to the similarities) that becomes clear when similar subjects are placed alongside one another.

Using video as her medium, Breitz displays five, roughly one-hour long videos of separate interviews that she held with her genetically similar subjects. The subjects and narratives are captivating and tempt the viewer to sit and watch for their lengthy entirety. Depending on one’s preconceived notions or assumptions about what it is like to be a twin, the resulting interviews are surprising; all subjects seem to rejoice in their ‘twinlyness,’ describing it as “fun,” and seeing it as “a plus, “a gift,” or “a bonus.” Words like “jealousy” or “envy” never enter the twins’ vocabulary.

As time goes on, the viewer becomes exceedingly more aware of the physical differences between the twins and the variations in their mannerisms, posture, and facial marks start to paint the picture of two physically different people. It becomes quite easy to identify the subjects by their voices. Breitz titles the five videos Factum: Tremblay, Factum Misericordia, Factum McNamara, Factum Kang, and Factum Tang, the second word being her subjects’ respective last names. This titling system aligns her project to a case study, similar to the way that a scientist might label a series of experiments. As a constant, Breitz dresses the twins in the same outfits and puts them in front of the same backgrounds. However, unlike a scientist who collects “pure” data, in Breitz’s project she has a more active role during the editing process. Breitz manipulates her subjects’ narratives by intertwining their -separately conducted- interviews; she pauses, repeats and chops up her subject’s sentences. In some instances, no subjects appear on the screen, in other cases we can only see one subject, and in other moments one subject will be visible on the screen but the viewer can only hear the voice of the absent twin. The decision to interweave and circumvent narratives makes Breitz’s videos effective. When one simultaneously hears the same birth story told differently by two subjects, one cannot help but question the truthfulness of the narrative. Which twin is more trustworthy? Which twin has a better grasp of reality?

Of the five separate works, Factum: Tremblay proves to be the most interesting and poignant work. This set of interviews presents the viewer with twin sisters whom both identify as queer and who both play with androgyny. In these interviews, Breitz’s subjects go beyond talking about what it is like to grow up as a twin, and more interestingly discuss how sexuality, gender, and fetishism can relate to “twin-ness.” In this instance, the twins discuss concepts of “nature vs. nurture,” a subject that is often discussed in the context of identical twins that were not raised together. Factum: Tremblay sets itself apart from Breitz’s other videos which, as a group, lack a sense of diversity; all the twins are white and educated, making her ‘case-study’ slightly close-minded or lacking.

Nonetheless, Breitz’s videos prove to be captivating and accessible, exposing the viewer to a series of unique histories and personal recollections. Factum provides the viewer with insight into the specific relationships and impressions that can only be experienced when one lives his or her life with another person who shares the same exact appearance, genes, and upbringing.

-SH

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