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Denis Beaubois

Andrew Frost

The city is watching. As the technologies of surveillance have multiplied and spread through the environment, so too the relationship between the individual and the state has become increasingly complex. Dennis Beaubois explores this relationship, finding within it the possibility for poetry and anarchy. In The Event of Amnesia the City Will Recall [1996-97] records the staging of a performance that occurred at 12 sites of video surveillance over a number of days. Beaubois is seen standing completely still in the windswept no-man's lands of office forecourts and atria in full view of surveillance cameras. The artist holds a placard that reads WARNING: YOU MAY BE PHOTOGRAPHED READING THIS SIGN. The artist then attempts to engage the cameras in a “dialogue” – asking for copies of the video footage being recorded by the security cameras, asking the camera to move up and down if “it” agrees, or side to side if “it” refuses. Partly comical, decidedly chilling, the video is a fascinating record of an encounter with a dehumanising apparatus that is, through the act of communication, humanised. Watching Beaubois being watched evokes an uncanny sense of disembodiment in the viewer. This sensation recurs in later works such as Constant [2004] - made while in residency with the University of NSW Forensic Psychology department - morphing through photographs of 13,000 human faces. Although there is a degree of recognition in watching the faces slowly merge with others, it soon becomes apparent that the only constant is the viewer, the unseen face in the equation. 


This exploration of the notion of embodiment formed the basis for many of Beaubois’s later video projects. The Translation Series explored the relationship between recording an experience – in this case writing, an act itself witnessed by a camera -Writing V1 [2000] and Writing V3 [2001] – and describing it – such as where the artists places a camera inside his mouth - As it Happens [2001] - and attempts to speak. Among the artist’s most compelling video works are those that describe an action that evoke a visceral reaction. Portrait of a Guilty Man [2006] is the record of a small wireless camera being repeatedly thrown at a man’s head until the camera breaks. One cannot help but wince at every impact. In The Fall from Raiatea [2007] - in which a light weight camera is thrown from the top of a high rise building - this kind of reaction is taken to a dramatic extreme. Designed as a five screen installation, the images are grainy and broken up, static interference and noise corrupting the images. The formal qualities of the work are exquisite but once the camera goes over the edge the viewer feels as though they are falling. For a moment the distance between the viewer and the screen dissolves as terror takes over.

b. 1970
Birth place
Period of activity 
from 1997

Lives and works

1 January 1997
Selected works
Selected events
Commonwealth Foundation2-Beaubois, – from In the event of Amnesia the city will recall…, via Vimeo 
From Fall From Matavai, via d'archive
From Fall From Matavai, via d'archive – from Fall From Matavai, via d/Archive 
From Constant, via d'archive
From Constant, via d'archive – from Constant, via d/Archive