Maniac De Luxe
Alexie Glass-Kantor

I have this image that the inside of my son’s brain is full of wires that haven’t quite connected yet. He’s a teenager and I hope that one day they will connect and that what I see of his life now – which is governed to a fair degree by chaos – will gain more order.

Maniac de Luxe

Drawing from the traditions of portraiture, David Rosetzky’s elaborate video scenarios fuse elements of reality and fantasy, as they present personal narratives within idealised modern interiors. Maniac de Luxe (2004) explores our need to form meaningful relationships, and the basis of relationships in both traditional familial roles and the formulaic stylings of popular culture. In a series of direct-to-camera monologues, Rosetzky’s characters deliver upfront, sincere and confessional narratives. Their stories fade in and out over each other, so that the characters seem to inhabit each others’ monologues.

Consequently, these immaculately put-together subjects form what one assumes to be an unlikely modern family, bought together by the fabric of circumstance rather than the legacy of history or familial ties. You are uncertain whether the subjects inhabit the same space, or are, indeed, even related. Maniac de Luxe plays with conventions of social engagement, deliberately creating an uncertain and ambiguous space through stories inconsistent with their public location. It is not parody or pastiche: Maniac de Luxe presents a fluid approach to interpersonal relationships.

Viewers walk into a setting: an expansive flokati rug, the liquid gold illumination of strategically placed Star Lights, a tasteful wall unit of a burnished veneer finish, discreet box seating, two large screens. This environment mirrors the interior inhabited by the videoed subjects, a doubling that encourages a meditation on the spaces we inhabit, and the collision of our personal interiority with that of the subjects. The emotion implicit in each subject’s narrative, suggests, at first, a site antithetical to the rationality signified by the Bauhaus-like design detailing: emotion is somehow grubby against the Piergiorio Cazzaniga chair, ill-mannered in the presence of Tom Dixon lamps, objects that are perfectly formed in contrast to the subjects – the storytellers, if you will – represented within. The overly mannered restraint of the environment reminds us that one’s emotional space is really only opened up to others through acts like voyeurism, intrusion of privacy and even, occasionally, illegitimate possession.

Maniac de Luxe is not an experiment in exposé or reality TV, it is anti the formica interiors of primary-coloured Big Brother houses and their nihilistic exhibitionists/inhabitants clamouring for favour and public affection. Instead, Rosetzky’s openness in the directing of both us as viewers and the videos’ subjects, ensures we witness the outcome of a promise: a promise made by modernity, yet rarely fulfilled, about the potential for an equality of experience, a true democratisation.

We encounter in the video the young man whose family’s lack of interest in his commitment to working in the arts is thrown into depressing relief; a mother struggling to make sense of the psychological life of her teenage son; a young girl who wants a pet goldfish after missing her absent mother; and a father telling of how his son comments to an adult friend that he finds him ‘vulnerable’: ‘Vulnerable, such a big word for a seven year old … but I thought to myself, we’re all a little vulnerable’.

In this choreographed realm, the tender, hesitant confessing of guilty memories, of shame, of intimacy, of longing, of confusion, of poetic insight, underscores the banality of the everyday, and the work speaks of the individual and how the act of becoming transparent to others is commensurate with one’s own brash intrusions into the space of others. Really, we are all a little vulnerable.


Alexie Glass-Kantor is Director of Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne.


This article was originally published in 21st Century Modern: 2006 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 2006. Reproduced with permission.