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Demonst(e)rating the Untamable Monster
For his work Demonst(e)rating the Untamable Monster, Caner used motion capture technology to create computer-generated animated monsters, who speak and sing to each other in a two-channel video installation. He made the work in response to the mainstream media’s persistent characterization of those considered “other” as “monstrous.” Interested in language’s subject-producing power, he traced the etymology of the word “monster” and found that the Latin verb—monstro—means to demonstrate, while its noun—monstrum—refers to a divine omen or warning. The word thus possesses a deeply rooted connection to practices of signification, and so it seems apt that the monster has proven such an enduring and meaningful symbol across different cultures. An object of fantasy, the monster is understood and produced through the fear of that which is unknown and originates from outside. “Monsters provoke us to break down our built-in categories and rethink,” states one of Caner’s unnamed beasts. They are the aliens that dispute the unalienable. Because they can never be seen, their bodies remain immaterial, horrifyingly boundless and unfixed.
Perhaps this is why the physicality of Caner’s monsters is so striking and, at times, humorous. Scarred and pockmarked, with sagging, wrinkled skin, they seem strangely human, which essentially they are. The artist created them by digitally recording the movement and expressions of performers—including himself—which he then animated. By using motion capture, Caner effectively preserves the indexical; beneath the layers of computer-generated imagery are actual human faces, forcing us to question the many ways that multidimensional subjects are reduced to caricatures.Through his monsters, Caner critically reflects on how stereotypes are generated, and is particularly interested in their relation to image production, as he points out that the word “stereotype” originally referred to the metal printing plate used to create photographs.
Caner’s work also considers the exclusionary potential of language, particularly for those who are non-native speakers. He draws from Jacques Derrida’s writings on hospitality, in which the author argues that the foreigner’s obligation to communicate in a language that is not their own represents “the first act of violence” against them. This could be a reason Caner’s monsters frequently sing; in song—the most primeval and embodied form of speech—the physicality of sound often prevails over the immateriality of words.
Supported by ARCUS Project, Parallel Platform and Mondriaan Fonds.