Grayscale, a video in three acts, 18min HD video, 2010
Deville Cohen’s Grayscale describe a fantastical world in which office supplies are the primary building blocks of both the man-made and natural orders. In the worlds Cohen constructs, everyday items are loaded with new and often illogical functions that are not necessarily explained from the onset: highlighters are plucked from tree limbs like fruit, creating a loud “pop” each time one is pulled from its dangling cap, and small binder clips are grabbed by the handful like coins or food. Combining elements of theater, sculpture, cinematography and collage, Cohen creates works that are clearly handmade, but nonetheless visually and structurally complex. In the three-act video, black and white Xerox reproductions of cars, bottles of White-Out, and push pins are enlarged to human scale and personified by actors who hold up the printouts; with the actors’ faces entirely hidden and their bodies largely obscured, anthropomorphized versions of inanimate objects become the primary characters of the production. The motivations of each remain mysterious—a Xeroxed car moves through a car wash with brushes made of shredded paper; a bottle of White-Out and a highlighter take to a piano, leaving their respective colors on the black and white keys; fake rubber organs, including a brain and a heart, are cut through with a rusty saw. While their driving force and logic is allusive, the actions are completed in systematic fashion—a confidence of movement that slowly disrupts and transforms the settings and environments. Adapting the banality of the corporate office into a work of absurdist theater, Grayscale forces the viewer to reconsider objects typically overlooked, a process of alienation and recontextualization.