Monika Tichacek: The Shadowers

2 September–8 October 2005

Catalogue Essay by Jose da Silva


Monika Tichacek's Matthew-Barneyesque video The Shadowers became a cause celebre when it was removed to an R-rated backroom on its debut at Melbourne's Australian Centre for the Moving Image. It presents a chain of surreal sado-masochistic interactions among a trio of female characters, one played by the artist herself. The costumed violence extends to cannibalism; a face and shoulder are apparently gnawed away; one woman is seen in the act of devouring, like a proud lioness hovering lustily over her prey; mouths are bruised and garnished with thorns; the artist sews her thighs together using a needle and thread, creating a cat's cradle. Tichacek sets her dark-side psychodrama in nature, as if to suggest her characters' perversities are somehow pre-civil. It's hard to unpick The Shadowers. While packed with extreme acts, their motivation seems uncertain. Does the piece simply rehearse narcissistic sado-masochistic pleasures or reach toward some greater allegory? Your call.