A man stands, facing square on into the camera, behind a series of altar-like set ups across three video projections. A number of seemingly random (but, really, quite carefully chosen) objects, and pared-back but jarring colour schemes distinguish each one from the next: custard yellows, gummy pinks, turquoise and lavender, and finally, the deep, pulsating red and inky purple of the culminating work, The Impossible. This is A Season In He’ll, titled after a bastardisation of Rimbaud, a video art triptych from US artist Alex da Corte that disseminates hedonism in nightmarish detail.
As we move in sequence around the room, we watch on despairingly as our protagonist cracks open a mysterious black egg and snorts it, sucks a blood-like substance from a pear then punches himself in the face, before injecting himself with a needle, all in ultra-ultra slow motion. If you’re squeamish, you’re going to be looking away for quite a while. A sense of repetition runs through the trio of works, but each one feels as though it’s coming from a slightly different off-kilter and otherworldly realm to the next. Realms in which time and space are somehow shaken off: this feels like anywhere and everywhere, at once ancient, present, and yet to come.
It’s a somewhat ghostly series in comparison to the rest of da Corte’s back catalogue. A quick search of his name on Tumblr will upturn a pop-tastic flurry of glittery piñatas, sprinkled donuts, giant ketchup bottles, and ice cream cones. Coiling snakes are constructed out of acrylic fingernails, and bare torsos stickied with litres of orange soda. This is a magpie-ish man who is drawn to the shiny, the polished, and the colourful, though always tarred by undertones of the grotesque.
Here that grotesque element matures and steps into the foreground a little, but his signature kitschy elements continue to seep through if you look for them hard enough. The pink and green watermelon in the second video, Bad Blood, those garish but nonetheless seductive colour palettes, his toying with the uncouth motifs of drug culture. Despite a more pervasive sense of bleakness than perhaps ever before, we can still never shake off the feeling that this is a man with a sense of humour. We do see him snorting an egg, after all – no matter how eery the portrayal of that act.