I’ll admit it, I am obsessed. Irrationally so. To the point I have watched this entire video numerous times over: in an Auckland gallery, on a computer at work, at home, twice in Wellington, again as I write this.
It’s the kind of gimmick that already exists on YouTube, shared alongside a “You won’t believe what happens when..!!” headline. Let’s see just how many rubber bands it takes to break a watermelon and film it from start to finish.* In Carr’s take on this watermelon tale, there’s no option for a quick result, no way to scroll down or skip to the end. Unless your timing is right, you just have to sit, wait, and see.
The more you watch, the more is revealed, or the more you start to notice. The rhythm of the womens hands moving in and out of the frame, the sharp smack of each rubber bands’ release, juice starting to froth from small fissures in the fruits skin as the twisted rope of rubber clinches the mellon a waist. I was seduced by the slowly bubbling and dripping moisture, in all its high-definition glory. What could have been just another absurd experiment is rendered suggestive through these details. Young and female, the hands with their slick red nails offer a preview of the fruit’s flesh. Their gestures aim not to end in consumption, but in rupture—achieving the impossible through sheer repetition.
After waiting ten minutes, twenty, perhaps half an hour, what does this eventual climax satisfy? Is it the childish pleasure of watching two familiar materials being forced into a strange encounter, or do the signs of fruit and flesh, the buildup and release, culminate as something more erotic? Violence is palatable when acted out on a piece of fruit. Or is it a crowd mentality….???
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Whatever desires, innocent or otherwise, Carr’s Watermelon tests the nuances of time, performance, and material transformation. It creates a space of bodily exchange and empathy, hooking us in until the inevitable end. Carr is a master of slow delivery and drawn out spectacle, positing tension as both an inevitable result on screen and an uncomfortable part of our own anticipation.
The end is worth the wait.
Steve Carr’s Watermelon, is on show at City Gallery as part of the group exhibition Bullet Time, with work by Daniel Crooks, Eadweard Muybridge (1830–1904), and Harold Edgerton (1903–90). On until June 10.
Jay Hutchinson, turn left at the end of the drive
May 12–June 4
Enjoy Public Art Gallery
1/147 Cuba St
Opening: May 11, 5:30pm, all welcome
Kate Lepper, DEAD BUG LIVE
May 7–May 28
Toi Poneke Arts Center
61–69 Abel Smith St
*The answer is 311.