Andrea Cooper’s whimsy is short and sweet
Despite its title, there’s nothing sugar-coated about Honey, Andrea Cooper’s luminous new video having its Canadian premiere at Vtape.
Getting mellow yellow is not in the Toronto media artist’s playbook. In Strange Things, an earlier work, she’s “a sort of crazy femme fatale that will seduce and leave you for dead.” In Starring: Part 2 she portrays herself as an architecture-defying “70-foot tall vixen.”
In Honey she’s even more extreme. She’s your everyday housewife confined in a kitchen from nostalgia hell. Oh, the horror of it. “In a way, the kitchen becomes a womb,” she tells me during an email exchange. “In the most broad sense, it is about existence and the future of existence.”
The sexuality of Cooper’s work might well place her alongside other “raunch feminists,” described by Ariel Levy in her 2005 book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Yet Honey gets its buzz more from its poetic whimsy than for being any in-your-face broadside for feminine sexuality. “There is absolutely no anger in the piece,” Cooper says. “Anger or aggression has a tendency to turn people off. I’d much rather entice.”
Indeed, despite the suggestion of the blonde bombshell in her looks, Cooper is mostly Earth Mother by nature. Honey evolved from her thinking about the “mysterious disappearance of bees in North America,” say says, “and the importance of bees for human survival in terms of fertility. In a way the kitchen becomes the deserted hive.”
The kitchen also provides a crucible for forging female stereotypes. During the course of the 11-minute, 48-second dream-like narrative, the artist is shown – semi-transparently but in a little black chic cocktail dress – crawling cat-like all over a kitchen counter. Before you want to call in Mr. Clean, she becomes – “poof” – a lubricious seductress, in full pout, performing for the camera. “Welcome,” she says, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
The narrator’s fate follows in a surreal fashion with the arrival of “many, many men” – and their appearance is left entirely to the imagination, although some we’re told are fat and other are skinny – who somehow squeeze themselves into the room.
Cooper understands the confessional nature of video, which places few limited to inhibit the imagination of any evocation of time’s passing. Honey shows a domestic diva morphing into an extremely nubile pole dancer who’s pregnant with what appears to be an 11-month-old bowling ball. Honey suggests every action happens at once much as each of the artist’s “characters” is in the fact the same individual.
“In most of my work I mimic a lot of female stereotypes,” Cooper says. Some are intentional while others “come to fruition as I perform. I was thinking of all the women left alone, of the not entire amused girlfriend, the seductress and (the) stripper/porn star.”
- Peter Goddard