Dora Budor‘s Action Paintings cuts to the chase. In each of the three video segments on view at 247365 Brooklyn, the Croatian artist recreates blockbuster action film tropes—the rooftop pursuit, the car chase, the apocalyptic nightmare—in a perpetual loop.
The young female protagonist of each clip, sometimes played by hired body double Helga Weltman, sometimes by Budor herself, flees an unidentifiable but seemingly unavoidable threat. Instead of the expected weaponry, the women carry a blank canvas—used as a prop in the footage and exhibited alongside its corresponding film in the space. The gallery floor’s dirt covering, giving the viewer the same uneasy footing as the fleeting leading lady, is covered by a see-through vinyl tarp, giving the dirty—the violent—a shiny Hollywood sheen.
Budor’s fascination with the blockbuster extends to their methods of production. In the past, she has worked with Maja Cule, filming live action fight scenes with hired groups of underground Turkish street fighters. Her other sculptures reappropriate discarded set props and makeup kits—objects that in one realm elicit fantasies from the viewer and, once the film ends, lose their symbolic power.
Budor’s videos manipulate the same processes that cinematically register imminent hostility as a form of passive entertainment, that make the chase scene a staple in financially successful films. Action Paintings recalls these sometimes billion dollar franchises, the “heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat action thrillers.” The dystropic drama of these contemporary action thrillers reflects a larger cultural anxiety around the constant threat of surveillance.
Ever present danger lurks behind and above. In Action Paintings, the “chaser” might be Budor’s shadow, or Helga’s, or the lens’s gaze, always zooming and trailing inches behind. The creeping camera work and quick scene cuts add to the heightened anxiety of the film’s cyclicality—the never-ending chase. It’s the pervasive sense of threat that moves these narratives forward. The chase is no longer a reactionary escape, but the driving force forward, and back again.
Action Paintings by Dora Budor is on view from February 14th through March 10th at 247365, 131 Huntington Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11231
If the Hollywood chase is constructed through a directorial deployment of camera tricks and movie production hacks, the paintings serve as witness to the action of each film. The battered canvases of Action Paintings register pain. Like a bruise, they don’t capture a moment in action, only the mark of its violence. If the paint-slopped canvases of the great male Action Painters are freeze frames for the “activated gesture,” Budor’s acted-upon canvases are battered props. She’s less of a Pollock and more of a Saint Phalle—not slashing her canvases with meaning, but instead shooting to watch them bleed.