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Brendan Lee

Andrew Frost

Cars speed along highways. Explosions destroy buildings.  People scream, cry and burst into fits of wild verbal aggression. An aircraft is torn apart, wings burning, fuselages ruptured, bodies flying – yet the aircraft continues to crash, over and over, without end. For Brendan Lee the language of cinema – and its recurring visual motifs – is the subject of his work.  Lee’s single channel pieces suchas Boom [1998], Hits [1999], Skids [2000], Pursuit [2000] and Plain Video [2005] are meticulously constructed collages of samples from mainstream movies. Skids, for example, edited together a collage of cars skidding while Hits was a montage of fight punches. The collection of these visual occurrences offer an insight into the grammar of cinema, how action is framed and highlighted by a camera angle, sound effects or music. But Lee’s work also suggests a darker view, revealing not just how the visual continuity of these samples work, but also their deadening homogeneity.

For Shooting From The Hip [2005] Lee took a different tack. To isolate the recurring gestures of Hong Kong action cinema, Lee constructed a set, hired an actor and recreated the two-gun-pigeons-and-papers-flying visual hyperbole of the work of directors such as John Woo and Ringo Lam. Where the earlier sample-based work highlighted the gesture by appropriation, Shooting from the Hip opened up a new way to examine visual language of Hollywood while exploring how identity and nationhood are evoked through cinema.

In Out of The Blue (Tracks 1 & 2), [2006], Lee took a step away from action and examined the subtleties of physical gesture in a series of vignettes shot around various locations used in iconic Australian films such as Dogs In Space [1987] and Romper Stomper [1992].  The action in the two videos is performed by teenagers, adding poignancy to proceedings while the camera style creates a strange and unexpected sense of “Australianness”.

This sense of national identity – an identity founded on imagery, delivery and physical gesture - was the subject of Lee’s subsequent works The Beautiful Badlands [2006] and the two-screen installation Two Birds With One Stone [2006], which took on the prison movie sub-genre of Australian cinema and their absurdly overstated notions of masculinity. While the communication between the men in these videos is aggressive and confrontational, both works suggest that symbolic images of liberation from confinement – such as the open road – are in fact just as restricted by a collective imagination. Proving Ground [2007] explored this notion further. On one screen, cars are seen doing burnouts and doughnuts, while on the other screen, men in a pub drink beer to excess. While no explicit reference is made between the subjects of either screen, the metaphorical resonances of place are starkly apparent.

b. 1974
Birth place
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Period of activity 
from 1997
Selected works
Selected events
The Sentimental Blokes, – from The Sentimental Blokes, via 
Skids, – from Skids, via 
From Plain Video, via d'archive
From Plain Video, via d'archive – from Plain Video, via d/Archive