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Grant Stevens

Andrew Frost

The key to Grant Stevens work is what’s left out. Through a series of videos and installations the artist has examined the interplay between text and the spoken word, looking at the complexity of context, association and montage, while leaving a space in which the viewer may bring their own interpretations. 

In early works Stevens lifted dialogue from Hollywood films and rendered the dialogue as a text. In Your More [2002] the artist appropriated dialogue from the film Taxi Driver [1976] and, while playing different samples from different parts of the film simultaneously across two screens, cast what had originally been an interior monologue into an equally hermetic dialogue. Nothing’s Changed [2004] took dialogue from Woody Allen films and, spreading the text across three screens, contrasted solipsistic statements of personal distress with jokes about philosophy and sex. 

Stevens has also created what he terms “image works” – pieces that appropriate brief sequences from films. No Sir [2003] took Jack Nicholson’s immortal reading of the line “You can’t handle truth” from A Few Good Men [1992] and created a repetitive, stuttering four screen mosaic of the actor’s face. Mr. President [2001] lifted a sequence from Independence Day [1996] depicting the destruction of the White House while Danger Zone [2003] lifted a sequence from Top Gun [1986] which, once edited into series of word–free sighs, smiles and shrugs, had Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis communicate entirely without spoken words.

Many of Stevens’s major video pieces have been with expanded video in installation settings. In Dazed and Praised [2004] text and dialogue lifted from the skateboarding documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys [2001] flashed on a TV screen while a stereo placed on the other side of the room played classic heavy rock songs by Cream, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. A similar use of the expanded space of a room was crucial to the viewing of Turtle Twilight [2006] a two screen installation which featured, on one side, a woozily shifting colour-saturated image of a tropical island and, on the other side, a scrolling text about adventures in an unnamed and unlocatable paradise. The scale and the relative silence of the piece set up a new paradigm for Stevens work.  Recent pieces such as Matter [2007] – a trippy, psychedelic pattern of colours – and Really Really [2007] – a series of sentences drifting through inter-stellar space – extend the subject of Stevens’s video work away from the secular into the realms of New Age mysticism.

b. 1980
Birth place
Brisbane, QLD, Australia

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