2 min

Jolie laid

The beautiful ugly world of Steve Reinke

Credit: Xtra files

In his Sad Disco Fantasia from 2001, Toronto’s Steve Reinke announced that this was to be his last video. I suspect that no one watching actually believed him – but I confessed to being a little worried. What if he meant it? A world where you can’t look forward to a new Steve Reinke piece (even if you don’t wind up liking it much) is a world of diminished excitement.

And so I report with a sigh of relief that skepticism won out, as evidenced by Why I Like Ugly Boys, a Pleasure Dome program featuring four new Reinke pieces that are a pleasure to watch.

In JP, a young fellow speaks into the camera, bemoaning his inability to cope with life. Moments when he is not speaking are presented in fast-forward, at once forcing the viewer to rely on words alone and reminding us that non-verbal communication is valid and necessary. We are made to wonder whether the footage is staged or genuine – and desperately hope for the former: JP’s whining is irritating in the extreme. The piece reflects interestingly on its own construction, but lacks Reinke’s customary wit and so is vaguely disappointing.

Also low on my list is The Chocolate Factory. A rigorous formal structure – a series of numbered drawings – constrains Reinke’s style, whose overarching cleverness is his ability to inspire with a seeming mismatch of visual and verbal statements. As well, a narrative is imposed: Reinke’s witty musings become the ravings of a sociopathic serial killer, and this narrowness kills the explosion of meanings that usually accompany his work.

With Final Thoughts, Part 1, Reinke is up to his usual pleasing tricks, wryly and tangentially commenting on the images he presents. Or are the images commenting on his words? This is what is so often compelling about Reinke’s work: The way he puts it together seems patently obvious for a brief, thrilling moment – then a little excavation reveals the possibility of another process altogether.

Which brings us to Anal Masturbation And Object Loss. Here, Reinke shows himself in the process of creating a sculpture (a book, most of whose pages are glued together) which, he tells us, is to be called Anal Masturbation And Object Loss (Sculpture). The tape, then, is the making of the sculpture – but also the making of itself: Anal Masturbation And Object Loss (Video). With so much to unpack, this is a theorist’s field day.

The rest of us can just sit back and enjoy: It’s funny because it’s clever.


$5. 8pm. Sat, Dec 14.

Latvian House.

491 College St.

(416) 656-5577.