The night ended much as it had begun, with the gallery patrons spilling out onto the cold pavement. Kirsten Coleman’s video projection, You Can See Me But I Can’t See You, screened as part of FELTdark, began to unfold from the gallery window. I watched the crowd of faces turn to red as the screen came alive, illuminated as if someone had just sparked a fire.

The tearful, but ever-so-seductive face of Jane from 1984 film Paris, Texas filled the screen, as she faced us from within the confines of a peepshow booth. The claustrophobic cage ironically saturated in pinks and reds, clichéd hues of seduction.  A one-way-mirror separates Jane from her customers, she is the ultimate object, consumed with absolute anonymity.

Of all the iconic scenes in Paris, Texas, Coleman choses the moment where Jane is reunited with her husband, who remains behind the one-way mirror; hidden from our view and hers.  Space is again at play here, the lovers may be physically proximate, but they could not be more separate. What should follow is one of the most recognised monologues in American cinema, but here Coleman holds the reins. She silences Jane’s husband, and instead we only see her heart-breaking reactions to his words.

Cinematic voyeurism is heightened here by the use of multiple screens. The one-sided mirror, the cinema screen, the gallery window – all separate one site from another, viewer from viewed. We participate in the act of voyeurism through these layered interfaces. Coleman slows the footage to an aching speed and we all watch Jane’s face crumble over and over again. Her eyes fill with tears, her lips quiver and twitch and I am drawn into this intimate portrayal of the physicality of someone’s grief. It is that is agonisingly succulent sadness; the type only made bearable by audiences because it is felt in a way that is so picturesque.

As I make my way home I feel the gravitational pull of Jane’s face, like a bright-pink full moon. The street lights make the wet bitumen glisten as if her tears, set on repeat, spilled over into the surrounding pathways. I see them pool in a gap in the footpath which overflows, pouring between the pavement bricks like a complex microscopic river system.

KATE O’BOYLE

Using Format