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Gillian Wearing / 2 into 1 (1997)

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Published on Jul 12, 2012

The short video projection 2 into 1 (1997) features a mother and her two sons, one generation lip-synching the dubbed words of the other. It is hypnotically disturbing to watch a pair of 10-year-old twins take turns speaking their mother's exasperated love for them. "I think Lawrence is absolutely adorable, he's gorgeous, I love every inch of him," Lawrence says, in a slightly raspy woman's voice. "But he's got a terrible temper." Halfhearted affirmations of self-esteem also figure in the mother's monologue, along with deep fatigue, all sounding precociously sympathetic--if not a touch demonic--coming from her children's lips. Equally unnerving is the mother's mimed recitation, heard in the soft, clear voices of clever preadolescent boys, of her sons' accounts of her. We hear their criticism of her driving ("too slow") and clothes ("she doesn't dress too well"), and their complaint that she goes out to clubs too much (slightly disheveled and obviously anxious, she looks like she could use the break). For their part, the boys, baby-faced and natty but incipiently loutish, are hardly ingratiating. A dazzlingly deft expression of the complex pushes and pulls in the mother-son relationship, 2 into 1 is an even more concise articulation of the triangulated relationship between artist, subject and viewer. Treating emotional truth as if it were the coin under the three fast-shuffled cups of a sidewalk con artist, this video pictures the circulation of meaning as a kind of vaudeville act, fast, funny and a little cruel.

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