While working as visiting faculty in Paris, Skip Arnold produced numerous short video works on sundry, and usually economical, recording devices. These works stand as a document to Arnold’s time spent in France.
With little care for high production, these vignettes are shot in low lighting, using awkward or grotesque angles, and often with French TV audibly playing in the background. Few details are given beyond the cheap ceiling and bare walls of his Parisian apartment. The viewer’s focus is on Skip and on his ‘relationship to self, place, and particular time.’
Ranging from sweet and whispered crooning, annoying and repetitive children’s songs, and simple growling at the camera, these ‘excerpts’ primarily take the form of song. Rhyme and melody are matched with lyrics of self-loathing, contempt, depression, absurdity, and isolation. In their simplicity and pain, they are reminiscent of slave songs. With a dash of inflated self-worth, they more closely resemble punk rock anthems (or tantrums) or letters of abandonment sent from summer camp. Skip’s work is often humorous and disquieting. We laugh out of Skip’s sense of exaggeration and out of our own discomfort. We are quieted by Skip’s unadorned honesty.
Echoing another exile in Paris, Arnold’s work fits nicely into Antonin Artaud’s ‘Theatre of Cruelty.’ With a desire to shake up notions of comfort and reality, Skip persistently aims to irritate, to goad, to provoke. With a sense of immediacy, Arnold’s work always aims to engage the viewer.
When asked about his thoughts on the French, Skip will tell you that he has a “love-hate relationship; an understanding.” This also may be a good description of Arnold’s relationship to Los Angeles, or Vienna, or Beijing, or wherever Skip might find himself. Arnold is ever aware of life’s dualities.
Skip Arnold’s work has been seen throughout the world. Arnold was included in the Getty Research Institute’s ‘Evidence of Movement’ and will be included in the forthcoming exhibition ‘California Video’ opening in March at the Getty Center. Later this year, Richard Hertz will be assembling Skip’s recent work for a solo exhibition at Kim Light Gallery.