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Alex Da Corte
Artwork 2022
Installation photograph from the 'A Little After This' exhibition in A4 Arts Foundation's gallery that shows Alex Da Corte's video installation 'ROY G BIV'. On the left, a large red wooden box with a back-projected screen plays Da Corte's video. On the right, 7 red powder-coated viewing chairs are arranged in an arch.
Artwork: Alex Da Corte, ROY G BIV (2022). Video, colour, sound; wood box with back-projected screen, paint, performance, and 7 powder-coated chairs. 60 min. Private collection.
Artist Alex Da Corte Title ROY G BIV Date 2022 Materials Video, colour, sound; wood box with back-projected screen, paint, performance, and 7 powder-coated chairs Dimensions 60 min Credit Private collection

A play in five acts, Alex Da Corte’s ROY G BIV is a meditation on love, labour, and colour. The film’s logic is that of a fever dream – clarity is suspended in favour of feeling; sense given to sensuality. The set against which the play’s strange action unfolds is a recreation of the Brancusi Room (Gallery 288) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1954, Marcel Duchamp, a close friend of Brancusi, assisted the Museum in composing the tableau of four works featured. It is fitting then, that Duchamp is the central character in this play; appearing first as himself (as performed by Da Corte), then his alter-ego Rrose Sélavy, later as the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman; and lastly as one of the two figures in Brancusi’s The Kiss (1916). Da Corte embodies these roles to uncanny effect. Transformed by costumes and prosthetic makeup, he gives an exhaustive and demanding physical performance – a form of what he terms “devotional research” – as a means to attend to and inhabit difference. To this, ROY G BIV is liberal in its quotations, citing art-historical and pop-culture references, from Jasper Johns’ Painted Bronze/Ale Cans (1960) to Stevie Wonder’s cover of the Carpenters’ (They Long To Be) Close To You (1970) – dissimilar artefacts brought into narrative proximity.

As to plot, the film reverse engineers the embrace of The Kiss’ figures; wonders after how they met, how they came to be locked together for all time. “What does the emancipation of this kiss look like?” Da Corte asks. “What kind of love do they share after all of these years?” As the acts progress, the film moves from greyscale tones to brilliantly saturated colours. “From an early age,” the artist says, “ I understood colour in relationship to matters of the heart.”

The five-act play is accompanied by a durational performance. Every few weeks, the cube on which the film is projected is repainted by a professional house painter. When the work is exhibited in the United States, Alex Da Corte’s brother, Americo Da Corte, performs this labour, moving through the colour spectrum suggested by the acronym ROY G BIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. This gesture is also borrowed; a nod to John Baldessari’s Six Colorful Inside Jobs (1977). Of paint’s demands, Americo Da Corte told Penny Siopis and Josh Ginsburg:

The most difficult colours to cover with are yellow and red. I’m sure you know this, Penny [Siopis], as red is your favourite colour. Red is just so stubborn. You can go cross-eyed looking at it and saying, Is this red? You almost get a little snowblind looking at it, wondering, Does it need another coat? Am I seeing the last coat? It really makes you nuts.

His presence calls into view the invisible labour of art- and exhibition-making. It is a parallel, too, Alex Da Corte suggests, of love’s labour, alluding to Mike Kelley’s More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid (1987) in a conversation between the artist and A4’s team about his brother’s role:

You could say that through the relationships that I was outlining in ROY G BIV, be it familial or social, our relationship to history, our relationship to things, our intimate relationship with each other, that all of these are outlined so clearly in this film. The one perhaps invisible sort of familial relationship, the one that I have with my brother, is then made very clear on the outside of the box, but not necessarily within the video... When you have a relationship, be it a brother or a friend or whomever, that cares in that way about you, there are more love hours than can ever be repaid. You can never thank anyone properly for that kind of relationship because it goes without thanks. It’s just what human beings, at their best, should do for each other. But if you have an opportunity to say thank you, then say it, I guess. Maybe that’s what that relationship with my brother outside of this box is for me, a way of saying it.

For this iteration of ROY G BIV at A4, a professional house painter based in the city will take up the role intended for Americo Da Corte. Offering an anecdote from his experience of painting for the project, Americo Da Corte recounts:

I didn’t ever watch the video when I worked. I just listened to it, and I knew each part based on the music. I love the soundtrack to it so much. Whoever is working on the cube is going to hear the soundtrack when they sleep – because that’s all you hear as you paint.