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Melodrama


Melodrama (from the Greek word for song, melos and the Latin word drama) is a multi-channel video installation that re-masters blockbuster films with prominent gun violence. The film's MPAA ratings range from PG to R.

The film's score and background music have been removed; upon entering the gallery, one hears a cacophony of gunfire and fragmented dialogue. However, by listening to the headphones in front of each separate video, the viewer will only hear that specific film, with its musical score intact.

Putting on the headphones provides an escape (much like the cinematic experience itself) and confronts us with the sonic conventions hard at work on our heartstrings. It also forces a choice — stay in the comforting world of the melodrama, or take the headphones off and return to the stark, un-embellished violence in the room. These dozen or so films, overwhelming as they may be, are a mere sample of the innumerable scenes of violence in American culture — both real and imaginary.

I make no claim that gun violence in cinema is the direct cause of the gun violence in our schools, places of worship, and workplaces. However, I do think that gun violence, both real and in film, is a reflection of the American attitude towards these weapons in the first place — to hold one is heroic, and to kill with one is a thrill. I am complicit in this attitude as much as anyone; many of these films were chosen because they resonated with me at different times in my life.

I am interested in revealing the invisible conventions of spectacle. In this case, those conventions turn gruesome violence into thrilling entertainment, and the viewer is left to reconsider the component parts and the dizzying whole.

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nyoung at risd dot edu