The Krazyhouse (Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip, Dee) is a four-channel full HD video installation with sound created by Rineke Dijkstra in 2009 in an edition of six with two artist’s proofs. The work lasts thirty-two minutes and is shown on a loop, with each image projected on a large scale. The work presents filmed clips of five teenagers, named as Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip and Dee in the title, dancing in front of a stark white backdrop to a selected music track. Dijkstra met the performers in The Krazyhouse nightclub in Liverpool and asked them to come to a studio she constructed in the club during the daytime and dance to their favourite song. The neutral white background draws attention to the subjects and how they present themselves.
Dijkstra has described the filmed clips as ‘portraits’, explaining that ‘In The Krazyhouse I wanted to see if you could make a portrait of somebody that reveals parts of themselves just by dancing’ (quoted in Guggenheim 2012, online interview, accessed 16 June 2013). There are moments in which the teenagers appear rather embarrassed to perform in this way, adjusting their clothing or glancing shyly towards the camera which remains still. In other scenes, they confidently connect with the music. Their body language oscillates between self-aware poses, knowing that they are being observed, and movements reflecting an intense engagement with the music. Each person and the way he or she dances is different and individual. At the same time, their clothing, dance moves and facial expressions reflect contemporary images that they have seen in the media. However, the video goes beyond a study of adolescent behaviour and youth culture – it also shows on a more general level how individuality and socio-cultural constructions are intertwined.
While the teenagers expose themselves to the gaze of the camera, the audience for the installation observes them in a dark room with reactions oscillating between embarrassment, empathy and nostalgia. There is a strong contrast between the active and vulnerable role of the viewed subject and the passive, safe position of the viewers. This references a relationship which is omnipresent in contemporary visual culture, be it in reality television, tabloid newspapers or social media, often resulting in the viewer feeling a sense of voyeuristic complicity.
The Krazyhouse was preceded by an earlier video entitled The Buzz Club, Liverpool, England, March 1, 1997 1997, which consists of short scenes set against a similar white backdrop in a provisional studio that Dijkstra set up in two nightclubs, again in Liverpool. After selecting her models from the pubescent clubbers, the artist let them perform in front of the camera – dancing, smoking or kissing each other. These videos continue a recurrent focus within Dijkstra’s photographic work on teenagers, their body language and the difficult and often awkward transition from childhood to maturity, illustrated most notably in her series of Beach Portraits (see, for example, De Panne, Belgium, August 7 1992 1992 [Tate P78328], Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 23 1992 1992 [Tate P78329] and Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26 1992 1992 [Tate P78330]). Known primarily for her still photographs, much of Dijkstra’s work takes as its subject portraits of individuals at transitional moments in their lives, be it adolescence or new motherhood (see Tecla, Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 16 1994 [Tate P78098], Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994 [Tate P78097] and Saskia, Harderwijk, Netherlands, March 16 1994 [Tate P78099]).
The Fifth Floor. Ideas Taking Space, exhibition catalogue, Tate Liverpool 2009.
Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, Interview 2012, https://www.guggenheim.org/news/two-new-videos-rineke-dijkstra-retrospective, accessed 16 June 2013.
Jennifer Blessing, Sandra S. Phillips, Chelsea Spengemann and Jan van Adrichem, Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective, exhibition catalogue, Guggenheim Museum, New York 2012.
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