Brutal, Beautiful Transgressions

Brutal, Beautiful Transgressions

Scratching pretty surfaces to show depravity beneath

“Forest”—a collaborative project by Brock Enright & Ivan Hurzeler just completed at Cynthia Broan Gallery—combined installation, photography, and film to create a compelling and charged event that blurred fact and fiction.

The film depicts a camping trip, where cheerleaders, football, and basketball players come together for a weekend encounter to discover their true selves.

The gallery was strewn with beer cans, trash, shoes, football jerseys, cheerleading uniforms, coolers with marshmallow legs, and letters and photographs hung from the ceilings and walls, and scattered on the floor. Videos playing amidst the still lifes gave clues to what happened—a football player painfully jerking off in a paper cup; a close up of a cheerleader squatting over a paper cup. We try to make sense of these clues and construct a narrative. Varsity uniforms became stand-ins for humans and felt as used as the litter surrounding them, as if the scene of a crime, where something wild and powerful happened.

A potent image of a wet, shivering girl wrapped in an American flag was projected onto a screen in the next antechamber; she has been through something horrific and disillusioning. Disturbing and beautiful, it captures her innocence and shock.

In the last room an hour-long movie screened every hour on the hour. A girl emerges from a stream like the birth of Venus and walks through fields until she finds other cheerleaders like herself. She is on an inward journey filled with the angst, longing, and confusion of teenager. The pressures of group and social dynamics and that familiar feeling of not fitting in become potent.

The actors write letters to themselves about who they want to become. When darkness falls, letters are stolen, kids begin to drink, and an unrestrained mood emerges. A football player punches a basketball strapped to a tree, a guy pisses on a passed out cheerleader, and two guys make out and refuse to acknowledge the implications.

The night brings on a sexual frenzy detached from morality, flirting with debauchery. Brutality is followed by beauty and innocence. Shots of spiders with prey, deer grazing, and sunsets, storms, and sunrises weave together juxtaposing human encounters. The film peaks with an attack, a rainstorm, a pair of kids fucking in a tent, and an image of a football player wearing a burning crown atop his helmet. At sunrise, the group disbands. The girl retraces her path through the fields; she is changed, but not in the way she dreamt in her letter.

Back in the gallery, objects from the film were recognizable—and our relationship to them had changed. We projected meaning onto them now and they became signifiers for our experience of the film.