Rope Reconstructed | 3 channel video installation | 2007


This inability to speak is not evident in Lowther’s next project, the conceptually and architecturally adventurous Rope Reconstructed. The work explores the hidden spaces of homosexuality in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. Rope itself was a complex film, famous in part for Hitchcock’s uses of architecture and set design which allowed for the film to be shot in a series of continuous takes. For Lowther, however, the significance of the film lay not in the architecture of the space, but in the psychoanalytical space of gay experience.

If you are unfamiliar with the film, its plot, at the most basic level, revolves around two men, Brandon and Phillip, a gay couple, who engage in the murder of one of their classmates. Their motivation comes, in part, from a statement a former prep school teacher had made about the perfect murder, and their misguided interpretations of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy and the idea of the overman. In the stage version of the play, written by Patrick Hamilton, the relationhip between the characters is evident, but in Hitchcock’s version it is simply implied.

As a result, Lowther conceptualized a visual extension to scene that Hitchcock has revealed. He commissioned a scale model of the apartment, and included their shared bedroom, an architectural element that never appears in the film. As he rightly observes, this second bedroom is crucial to the late-1940s ambiguity of their sexuality, remarking that “[o]ne bedroom would be suspicious, but a second bedroom has the ability to project the image of platonic living arrangements, as long as the details of the bedroom confirm this convincingly.” Their relationship is, with hindsight, evident throughout the film, but only made apparent through subtleties like an alarm clock on each bedside table.

In Rope Reconstructed, we become complicit voyeurs who are witnessing a scene that takes place before the arrival of their victim. We see them packing for a trip, and what we encounter is the seed of their homicidal event. Philip goads Brandon with suggestions of a dalliance, in a sense taunting him with suggestions of sex, but Brandon inverts the veiled threat, creating something entirely more menacing.
The work itself is a three-channel projection in which we encounter Brandon and Philip speaking to each other as if across their shared bed. This hidden object is in fact the signifier of their closeted relationship. I am reminded here of Georges Bataille, writing in Erotism: Death and Sensuality, where he remarks:

[m]en as discontinuous beings try to maintain their separate existences, but death, or at least the contemplation of death, brings them back to continuity.

The implication here is that Brandon and Philip experience a disconnect between their actual lives and their outward manifestations of a closeted life. As a result, this disconnect becomes manifest in an action that provides them with a sense of agency. This is not no suggest that this is either a moral imperative or the only way they could have regained the experience of continuity, but Bataille does suggest that this taboo action creates an experience in which everyone who remains experiences a continuity in which everything is united.

The challenge stems from the competing modes of interpretation. The moral imperative is that the crime that has been committed is wrong, and it obviously is. In the film, this action is partially mitigated by the protagonists’ interpretations of Nietzschean philosophy, and this nihilism is, in part, certainly echoed by Bataille. Lowther creates a motivation, cinematically, and he creates a socially and sexually charged space architecturally. It is the responsibility of viewers to understand the distinctions between the two.

excerpt taken from, "The Pick Up Artist" by Brett Levine