Geleynse’s longstanding interest

Geleynse’s longstanding interest in models of machines and viewing apparatus is evident in his newest work, Interview (1997). With the artless simplicity of a “working model” Interview charms the viewer into considering its large and frightening implications, such as the reduction of intricate human operations of the mind and the heart to schematic machinations. A film projection on ground glass shows the head and bare shoulder of a man, smiling and nodding at the edge of a table. The man’s height and his shy smiles give him a child-like quality, alluding to the influence of childhood experiences in the formation of personal identity. In this installation the projector is placed behind the image, while the viewer is offered a chair in front of the table to which the push button is attached. Interview offers a “demonstration” of the construction of personal identity. The I is lodged between (inter) views of the present observer and projected views from the past. Yet the man remains mute and mysterious; in spite of his apparent willingness to open up to us, the viewer can only fantasize about his identity. As in all Geleynse’s installations, the film-loop’s open-ended narrative counteracts the simple solution the model at first glance seems to promise.

The attempt to control complexities through distancing, miniaturizing, “normalizing” and abstraction is embedded in Dutch culture. It is manifested as much in Mondrian’s paintings, the architecture of De Stijl and the emblemata of the seventeenth century as it is in a language rife with proverbs. Scale models and aerial views are a Dutch obsession to this day. Geleynse, who emigrated to Canada from Holland when he was a child, remains under the spell of the overview, yet continues to deconstruct its totalizing effect.

It is this stubborn obsession to make sense of his own life while admitting failure to do so coherently, that keeps Geleynse’s work fascinating. Such a personal search involves a rare unmasking of the masculine masquerade, an act of bravery performed in a coming-of-age story played out here in four related installations. In the middle of the room, I Want More Than This (1996), shows a life-sized framed picture of a boy in his Sunday best. The boy seems caught in the deeroticized domestic space represented in three large photographs on the walls that seem straight from an Eaton’s catalogue of the fifties. In a frame on the dresser in Their House (1996), the film-loop projects the smiling face of a woman, then of a man, never seen together. They are re-assuring, happy faces, as they would appear to a baby in his crib, bestowing a rain of smiles and kisses on the boy, to welcome him into their house, into the story of their lives.

As one of several details that Geleynse has added to the photographs, in the Living Room (1996) a tiny naked woman is stuffed into a decorative cup. The film-loop projects a man on a framed photo of a bathroom, gesturing wildly and hiding his face, as if resisting a gaze that would fix him in this environment, where the irrational is turned into the functional. In Spare Bedroom (1996), a distressed, naked man is projected onto a mirror, in the corner of this unlived-in room. A person (the mother?) has just stepped out, only the heel of a shoe remains visible. A stiff, stuffed clown lies on the floor beneath the mirror.

Yet such Freudian motifs bring us no closer to providing explanations for the distressed behavior of the projected man. The film-loops, these mesmerizing veils the magician Geleynse pulls through his magic machine, continue to transform and trouble any posited truth, from Freud’s totalizing story to the (re-)viewer’s own concoction.

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