Following the success of her exhibition at Cell Project Space in 2013, exploring the awkward commercialised aestheticism of dating and drinking, Reupke continues to explore the malleable properties of stock image photography in her new film installation, ‘Letters of Complaint’. Fascinated by their flatness, emotional emptiness, and a lack of substance, Reupke investigates how stock footage can be manipulated, given potential context and exposed as fragile or unnerving.
There is a palpable sense of the uncanny evoked by ‘Letters of Complaint’. The multiple letters are narrated by the same female voice, despite being linked to three physical characters, and other less visible ones. The concept of a voiceover being used to vocalise the thoughts inside someone’s head is a trope that has been exhausted in cinema. However, the muddling of gender, and the dominance of a singular voice for multiple stories, demonstrates Reupke’s apt knack for unsettling the norm.
Reupke’s focus seems to be less about the content of the letter, but instead the tangible actions evoked by writing it. The tone of the letter is often apologetic, unable to make an actual complaint without giving a compliment, and tends to capitalise on cliché phrases and faux niceties. In a twist of irony, this pompous stylisation is commented on by one of the characters, lamenting that the inescapable “mock
tones” of complaint letters inextricably implies that they come from “peevish…nitwits”.
Reupke interjects the scenes with actors with footage of clouds in the sky. Alongside stock images, commonplace stock sounds are also integrated – pens writing, the blasts of road traffic and white noise. Reupke continues to exploit this idea of the façade by creating a theatrical mise en scene for each of the three actors. The lighting for each scene is a stereotypical representation of time and space – there is black and white, yellowing sepia, and a lurid luminous green. The generic reproduction of historical writing desks, blank sheets of paper, pens and quills are also exploited and made surreal. We hear the sound of a nib scratching, the quill is even dipped into an ink pot, but no words ever appear on the countless shuffled pages. The actors make studied and self-conscious movements, obsessing over the artificiality of the writing process. Heads are tilted in thought, pens are poised, and desks are opened and closed. The reading of the letter is often stilted, the content labours over long-winded details. They are convoluted with times, dates and exhaustive particularities.
Reupke creates an awkward iconography of manipulated and orchestrated appearances. Edited without interruption, the film continues on loop, and one cannot be truly certain where it ends or begins.