5 acts: bruise, bleed, break, scar, tooth. 2001
still from video
continuous loop dvd
dimensions variable


In Five Acts: Bruise, Bleed, Break, Scar, and Tooth, two women, one blonde and one brunette play an intimate game of "make-up". Although the characters appear to be involved in an innocent act, their "game" is executed with an acute awareness. The performance is set in a gray space. The characters wear identical gray outfits that camouflage them against the gray setting. This focuses the viewer’s attention on the action of the subjects’ hands and faces. The atmosphere is further emphasized by the dead pan expressions of the characters throughout the work. Additionally, Five Acts, explores the play between illusion and reality, and the re-contextualization of the materials utilized in painting, drawing, and sculpture.

Similar to all our work, we use non-collaborative actions and re-contextualize them in a collaborative manner. We examine violence with no aggressor and no victim; both characters act as equal participants, although their unique personality traits surface. The characters do not actually suffer; their physical aliments are staged and fictitious, however real the subject matter may be.

In Bruise, the two characters face one another and take turns applying make-up to each other’s eye. The result of this action remains hidden from the viewer until the conclusion of the work. The action appears to be innocent. The application through the motion and the gesture of the hand suggests that the characters are sketching or drawing onto one another's eye. When each has had their "turn", the two "girls" face the viewer confronting them with a disturbing image. The characters have not been beautified, but on the contrary adorn bruises, "black eyes".

In Bleed, the characters face each other and insert what may be paint or a make up tube into one another's nostril. It is not apparent what the protagonists are doing. The viewer is unable to see the result of the action until the characters face the screen to reveal that they have given one another a bloody nose.

In Break, the characters have their hands hidden bellow the viewable area of the screen. It appears that they may be sharing in the washing or handling of a delicate object. At the conclusion of the video each raise their hands to reveal their wrists in casts. The suggestion that they have broken one another’s wrist is in sharp contrast to the delicate and intimate application of the bandages. In the final frames of the video the brunette’s wrist falters and becomes limp, indicating that the broken wrists are falsified. The bandaging makes reference to a common sculptural material.

In Scar the characters delicately place and smudge material onto one another’s cheek, while hiding the action from the viewer. The style of application looks as though the girls are sculpting each other’s cheek. Though they try to conceal the action, the result is prematurely flashed to the viewer, revealing a fictitious abrasion on the cheek of the brunette.

Tooth plays between comedy and horror. The characters face each other and take turns poking one another’s front teeth. They turn to the viewer and smile comically revealing each of their shattered mouths. The effect has been painted, using the illusionary techniques of painting to illustrate a very real and horrific idea.
all images © Diana Shpungin & Nicole Engelmann 2000-2007