Zara Stanhope

‘I hate it when people won’t say what they want.’


Short soliloquies are spoken by six attractive young people who look aesthetically attuned, dressed in compatible tones of blue, green, beige, yellow and pink. The scenes suggest themselves as momentary excerpts from a weekend spent at a beach house, possibly the most memorable events that occur. The interior monologues happen in four or five locations – a kitchen, bathroom, on the couch or beach – that reappear and hence operate like dioramas. The ‘action’ is exactingly directed and edited yet gives the impression of being so normal. The on screen people reveal their innermost thoughts mixed with regrets, saying for example ‘I can’t get close to anyone…’. Fiction and reality blur: Weekender.

David Rosetzky’s experience in producing filmic works that scrutinise aspects of an individual’s character, often revealing the distance between their public persona and psychological disposition is evident in the refinement of Weekender. If Rosetzky’s recent video works have traversed a suite of relationships between individuals, Weekender returns the focus to the self, the self as it appears through others. Private spaces of being are exposed for the viewer in a more open way than the implicit references of many of Rosetzky’s earlier video works.

The viewer is privy to fragments of private thoughts that supposedly arise during beach recreation, combined into a faceted whole. As Weekender loops, it becomes apparent that what was at first presumed as straightforward confessional behaviour is not what it seems. For example, male voices play when female figures are onscreen or visa versa. Individuals act out scenarios that are inconsistent with voice-overs and onscreen personalities are puzzling conjunctions of incongruous statements. It’s also not clear whether some voices are earnest or feigned. The presumption of unique selfhood is hence denied.


‘You don’t take a photo of the action, you take a photo of the photo of the action’

Stanley Kubrick

The natural context for the evolution and design of Weekender would seem to be the legacies of film and television. Think soap operas and advertising imagery and you can see the sources from which Rosetzky selects his palette of techniques and operational devices. However, by refining the storyline’s chain of events to an index of details, conventions and tropes, Weekender refuses any sense of narrative. Expectations of a conclusion or completeness in this video are soon dashed, Rosetzky makes no commitment to the episodic climax of the television soap or a Hollywood happy ending.

Consistent with the non-site environment of the gallery where Weekender shows, the staging of the video is understated. The décor is deliberately ambiguous and the audience is left ignorant of the specific contexts for this group, and are therefore placed at one remove. Additionally, individual complexities of character or mind are alluded to but never given the duration or environment in which to develop. In the repetition of hermetic short scenes, Rosetzky resists generating the connection or projection of the audience but achieves enduring images of the ‘action’ – visual sound bites of attitudes or thoughts.

Realism of form and content are apparent in Weekender, or would be if Rosetzky had not disturbed the genre’s characteristics. Emotions are confessed on screen but in summary and kept under control. The visual tone of Weekender is cool, the actors’ movements are contained and the sound bites vernacular. Images and dialogue have a sense of the familiar. Unable to establish a conversation yet alone develop a dialogue, the figures in Weekender never achieve a personality that might distinguish them within the group. Their spoken confessions may well be recontextualised quotes from magazine agony aunt columns.

By mixing figures and voices, utterances and action, Rosetzky’s characters become not only interchangeable but also fallacious. All are subject to fickle relationships and personal failings, most commonly vulnerability, gullibility or deceit. The unremitting impression is of egocentric attitudes and behaviour. As each speaker is disconnected from the others, the petty concerns and emotions that are voiced become sole preoccupations.


‘Perhaps if we imagine the distinctness with which an object is reflected in a positively perfect mirror, we come as near the reality as by any other means. For, in truth, the Daguerreotyped plate is infinitely (we use the term advisedly), is infinitely more accurate in its representation than any painting by human hands. If we examine a work of ordinary art, by means of a powerful microscope, all traces of resemblance to nature will disappear – but the closest scrutiny of a photogenic drawing discloses only a more absolute truth, a more perfect identity of aspect with the thing represented.

Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, 1840.

The structure of Weekender suggests that the subjectivities and states of mind that are briefly presented are only a sample of a larger array. If Weekender is a type of portraiture, it is a selective interpretation that presents personal statements as a set of equivalent and transferable qualities. However, the implication that individual actions are part of some shared essence ignores the shaping of identity is that occurs socially. In Weekender there is society but no sociality.

A mirror appears repeatedly in Weekender. People check their appearance and search for their soul in its surface: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall…’. The video reflects or denies a fairy tale tinged with humour and desire and, of course, the struggle with ethics and morals confronted by characters in fables. Rosetzky teases the viewer with such symbolism and never acknowledges the potential for individual meaning to attain universal significance.

Weekender evokes a sensibility shared with many of Rosetzky’s other works, an interest in activity on the surface. Reality is displayed as being close to posturing, life is presented as a type of veneer. Imagery and representations are endowed with superficiality, and elsewhere Rosetzky has insinuated that masks and skin act like façades. If the notion of a veneer is pertinent within Rosetzky’s practice it is a symbol of behaviour as intrinsically imitated, invented and fabricated.

In Weekender language shares the responsibility for social deficiencies: ‘This time it’s different’; ‘I can’t get close to anyone…’; ‘…I’ve liked you since the first time I saw you’; ‘…it’s a special thing…’; ‘I’ve always had trouble with the words “I love you”’ or ‘I feel ordinary, boring and he will lose interest in me…’. How can we communicate with others when the overused and emptied forms of colloquial speech fail to impart the nuances of actuality?

Poe’s romantic confidence in the veracity of the camera is no longer sustained, and Rosetzky’s Weekender is a further reminder of the blemishes that destroy the ideal notion of photogenic perfection. We know when a weekender looks into the mirror and says ‘…but this time it’s different’ that it will be otherwise. The formal control and rarefied content of Weekender necessitate the viewer seek their own interpretation and meanings beneath surface appearances.

Zara Stanhope, curator and writer, Melbourne.


This article was originally published in David Rosetzky: Weekender, exhibition catalogue, 1st Floor Artists and Writers Space, Melbourne, 2001. Reproduced with permission.