Wine & Spirits
If Rachel Reupke had pitched her film Wine & Spirits to a TV production company, it might have gone something like this: “Imagine the reality hit ‘Several Dates’, take a series of scripted studio out-takes from the show, boil them right down and slow them almost to a stop. What is it REALLY like trying to get to know someone? Think of all the awkward pauses, think of this couple, one man, one woman, agonising to speak, think of the struggle to connect at all, and how that might sound and look. Painful! Meanwhile, the drinks they are ordering as they pursue their excruciating courtship take on a supernatural presence all of their own. Will this man and woman manage any type of consequential exchange, or will it eventually be the alcohol that starts talking first? What does alcohol do to a person anyway? Who is asking who, and what are they asking, in this strangely compelling tragedy of manners?”
It is unlikely this pitch would have been successful in a TV environment. Reupke might have been recommended by a kindly exec to try her luck on the experimental art circuit instead. Which is not to say that her art is a failed tv pitch. Not at all. In this case, the tv mood can be both something she pursues, as well as something against whose effect she simultaneously organises.
Be it her film, or her new series of digital prints titled Nonic, drawings of rounds of drinks done in Photoshop, her art remains art with a weather eye on the commercial, as well as art that does not take for granted where the usually accepted boundaries between the categories art and commerce lie. Reupke already drew on qualities of stock photography in her film 10 Seconds or Greater from 2010, and in Wine & Spirits, she has more fun with constructing her locations and drawing out her shots so that they can be ‘open’ for interpretative meaning – and sellable, commodified.
Threaded through this though, are a series of unforgiving observations on relations between some men and some women. Plus the persistent presence of alcohol, not only in the film, but also lingering malignly in the drawings. In a world where romantic love retains its image as an elusive, unique and splendid thing that sparks between individuals, then profile-matching algorithms can be developed for use in finding that love via dating websites. Two apparently contradictory ideas can co-exist perfectly well, the instinct imagined in one, constructed through the equations developed by the other. This is the world that Reupke depicts in all its soaring, grim detail, with her shots of make-up flaked pores and tipping pints. And it is here, perhaps most particularly in the pursed lips and expectant, but ultimately hopelessly constrained demeanour of the woman protagonist, that the film can begin most effectively to identify the nature of the tedium isolating its characters.
Rachel Reupke's recent exhibitions include 'Images Rendered Bare. Vacant. Recognizable', Stadium, New York, USA, 2012, 'Transformed Land', Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian, Paris, France, 2011, 'Video, an Art, a History: 1965–2010', Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, 2011 and '10 Seconds or Greater', Picture This, Bristol, UK, 2010. Recent screenings include 'Getting In', South London Gallery, London, 2013, 'Flatness: Cinema after the Internet', Oberhausen Film Festival, 2013, 'Alma Mater', Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2011 and 'Artist's Film Club', ICA, London 2011.
The exhibition, Wine & Spirits, has been made possible with support from The Elephant Trust.
The Film, Wine & Spirits, was commissioned by FLAMIN Productions through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network with funding from Arts Council England.