Rocket man, space movies

Daniel Cockburn puts space movies in the universe of post-modern cultural collage


We’ve never met, but Daniel Cockburn is a friend of a friend. This is an actual fact, and yet it also sounds oddly like the beginning of one of Cockburn’s video projects.

After a six-month residency in Berlin, Cockburn will be back home in Toronto this Saturday to attend Pleasure Dome’s presentation of his videos, Daniel Cockburn: You Are In A Maze Of Twisty Little Passages, All Different, at Latvian House.

Cockburn’s work is strange and recursive and curious and enthralling, and sometimes all at once. In works like Metronome and The Impostor (hello goodbye), he considers life, death and dreams – and dreams about death – with a childlike fascination and an adult’s sense of gravity.

He’ll ponder the collective illusion of time in Stupid Coalescing Becomers., or investigate his suspicion that everything in the universe has doubled in size overnight in the aptly titled Nocturnal Doubling.

Calmly offering philosophical and metaphysical insights on the audio track, while evidence of his thesis plays out on the screen, he’s both prankster and serious inquisitor there’s no way anything he’s talking about is even plausible, let alone probable, but he’s going to explore the possibilities as if it were.

Pieces like these are the work of a maturing artist still capable of connecting to the pleasures of an adolescent geekhood. You can sense it in his collage pieces, which harvest iconic sci-fi images to create new narratives – and always proceed from an informed perspective.

It’s not just that Cockburn sets a Muzak version of Elton John’s Rocket Man to fifty years’ worth of American space movies it’s the specificity of the choices he makes, citing the likes of Forbidden Planet and the William Hurt update of Lost In Space. And in WEAKEND, when he repurposes snippets from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s clone thriller The 6th Day into a dissertation on artistic control and character manipulation, it’s a fascinating fractal treatment that engages fully with themes the source material barely understands.

These and other works are set to screen at Saturday’s event, which will also present a ten-minute excerpt from Cockburn’s upcoming feature You Are Here. It’s tied to Pleasure Dome’s publication of a collection of essays by Sheila Heti, Don McKellar, Spencer Parsons, Steve Reinke and Emily Vey Duke, also titled You Are in A Maze Of Twisty Little Passages, All Different. If you’re in the mood to be stimulated – and you’ve been wondering how Tron would fare in the universe of post-modern cultural collage – you might want to be there.

Daniel Cockburn: You Are In A Maze Of Twisty Little Passages, All Different plays Saturday (December 5) at 8 pm at Latvian House, 491 College Street.[rssbreak]

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