‘A search for Liz’s agency within the different spatial planes of a re-constructed ancient Alexandria (attempt 1)’


Saturday 6th – Saturday 20th March 2010
Daily between 11.30 am – 5.30 pm (except Sundays)

Wednesday 10th March at 1.00pm.
Simon will lead an informal discussion about the work at Queen Street. Admission is free.

Why look for someone’s agency? I mean, is it of a cultural significance? You know, when, like, the council could be paying for a better army or more jails for paedophiles instead. And is Liz’s particular agency of relevance to your life? Is anyone’s? Is yours?

Agency is artspeak. Well, actually it isn’t, its just intelligent. And important. Like the velocity-addition formula – something that effects ones life everyday, but which doesn’t matter in a type of concrete practical way. Its still there.

For me, when we watch ‘Cleopatra (1963)’, what happens on (or in) the screen offers itself well to this sort of inquiry. You find yourself not sure what you are watching. When Liz kisses Rich, which Liz can we see? Are we seeing a woman in love? Or an actor kissing another actor in a Hollywood scripted film? Are we watching a representation of Ancient Egypt and Rome, or a post-modern construction of phantasy and fashion, read through a western colonialist frame?

If we are just watching actors (fraud), can Liz ever truly kiss Rich? The paparazzi render most of her other kisses fraudulent too, and our own minds produce a narrative to cover the ones unseen, those behind closed doors, in luxury hotels. (Further for us, our own CCTV kisses, ever captured, represented and re-produced, offer our own personal paparazzos, added to by facebook and an ever-expanding mesh of null representation, for which we must perform.)

So where is Liz? Not Liz the image- the hot, beautiful, soft, flawed idea of a woman we see and know. I mean Elizabeth, the person, making decisions and using her own body. Can she make decisions? Where? Not when she is acting, her words are pre-written, her body becomes a vessel, merely enacting what is asked of it. But once outside the studio, she still does not control her image, others control it. Not only how it looks, but worse, what it means.

This is not only happening to Liz. Alexandria suffers the same violence, and soon we emerge with a history that can substitute, and indeed is, the present. Liz’s body becomes occupied in the same way Egypt was and is, both made real by the authority of it projected image in the cinema. This is what the world looks like; there is no other way.

So I look for Liz. She is obscured by the painted backgrounds that Cleopatra was filmed through. We lose part of her when she rehearses her scenes, learning other peoples’ words and ideas. She finds herself in a new constructed space, not real, not especially fake – as constructed as everything else, so why not? Can she really be there? And then we have a kiss. With her boyfriend. Does it feel like a real kiss? Maybe more so to us, though we know it is scripted. A kiss that will repeat and repeat, becoming a new history. Is she in there, or are we watching something else?

Simon Farid 2010