White Magic (2005)
Kent, UK and Brooklyn, NY
[part of Design for a Carnival*]
80 x 35mm slide carousel projection
duration: 4 mins
NB: Another form of White Magic exists as a single screen video; (cf; low res, on Vimeo)
Adam Chodzko’s White Magic, (2004-2005), a single screen projection made up of 80 still images, without sound, both documents and perpetuates a ritual of colour dissemination through a pragmatic and economic system of exchange, displacement and transference. Seen as the performance of a spell the artist purchased and donated specifically red and green second-hand clothing between two charity shops, one located in the artist’s home town of Whitstable, Kent, UK and another in Brooklyn, NY, USA.
Chodzko bought all the green clothes from his local charity shop, in Whitstable, Kent, then took them to New York, donating them to a thrift store in Brooklyn (in the summer of 2004) and bought up all their red clothes. He then took these red garments back to the UK and donated them back to the original local charity shop he had used to source the green clothing.
The event of this artwork is partly set beyond what can be seen documented within the projection; in the future with the gradual dispersal of the UK green clothes in NY and the US red clothes in the UK, and in the past with the collective rejection of this clothing by its original owners. Chodzko imagined White Magic as a form of growth, like the spread of a coloured dye dropped in water. This expansion happens, of course, without the buyers of these items knowing that they are circulating these colours.
Beyond ideas of exchange, gifting and transformation Chodzko was also interested in the idea of a ‘collective costume’, an inadvertent carnival, masquerade and ritual. The work was conceived as a proposition for an exchange that could become commonplace as a way of honouring being situated in two place, within two communities. Within the projection are two brief glimpses of somebody (we may assume that it is the artist) wearing all the green clothes simultaneously in one place, then in another, all the red clothes; a sneaked moment of assembly and consumption before the diffusion. And too a sequence of delirious psychedelia that punctuates the grubby ordinariness of the spaces depicted; a disappearance of mundane event into pure colour. There are also apparent affinities between the women who oversee the exchange of clothes, suggesting a technique infused with elegance and the capacity for female magickal transformation.
Coincidentally, the original 35mm slides that comprise White Magic were accidentally processed badly skewing many of the dark areas of the images towards a solid red or green so that the medium itselfg seems to carry the chromatic spell. The video version is accompanied by a gentle audio mix between a close sound recording of someone getting dressed and undressed and the crackle and roar of a fire.
Like Better Scenery (2000 – ), Ants Choose Position for Sequins – 2 Seconds Interval (2003), Plan for a Parade with Two Masks (2004), Because… (2013) and O, you happy roots, branch and mediatrix (2020) etc, Plan for a Parade with Two Masks operates in the vibrating space between two apparently disconnected sites apparently communicating with each other.
Design for a Carnival, 2003, is an evolving project. It exists as a series of videos, re-mixed music, billboard projects, drawings, large scale public art works and small ephemeral events which collectively propose an entirely new form of festival – a model for a community to engage with each other in a way which is full of play and disorder, free from commerce, words, reason, and fixed hierarchies or identities. But this is a community which is heterogenous – its identity apparently rooted in the ‘local’ yet networked internationally as the carnival migrates across a number of spaces and times:
Lace-making catalyses a new method of DJ-ing; A large billboard sign in Turin announces a meeting in a hotel bar in Haiti; Local teenagers destroy and carefully reconstruct a woodland sapling; Ants prepare a constellation of sparkling sequins on their ant hill; Baseball caps are burned on pyres; A collaboration, with fashion designer Jonathan Saunders, will see a colossal dress specially tailored to ‘garland’ an 80ft high wind turbine. Clothes are swapped between countries and micro-parades are mapped out to vacillate between places 100’s of miles apart.
To document the carnival an elaborate structure made of bones and telephone cable is created as a camera filter, the resulting images acting as a mask for its audience and subject. Together, the outline of an event is being suggested, a tentative sketch, ambiguous, dark, excessive and joyful, far from the safety of the contemporary, commodified, urban street festival. But is everything Chodzko shows us in Design for a Carnival preparation for the carnival’s future existence? Or is what we see the carnival itself; a carnival of preparation, of speculation, allusions and ideas, taking place here in the gallery itself, between object and audience?