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MSVU Collection

¤ Dorain Henderson

Date of Work
¤ 1996

Accession Year
¤ 1996

Accession Number
¤ 1996.2

¤ In storage

¤ Film/Video

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Dorain Henderson

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Dorain Henderson
(b. 1970 St. Martinís, NB; lives in Halifax, NS)

Headache 1996
VHS video, colour, stereo
21:13 minute
Gift of the artist, 1996
Mount Saint Vincent University Collection

While grounded in the late modern history of artistís videos, Hendersonís work also reflects more recent awarenesses of videoís prevalent context: broadcast television, entertainment cinema, and home video. Her cross-referencing and recording of these aesthetic texts, as already available and widely understood languages, is what enables viewers to engage with the hermetic poetry of her tapes.

It seems, then, that Dorain Henderson would rather deconstruct than celebrate the everyday settings and subjects portrayed in her tapes. Such an anti-normative stance, the opposite of realism, generates an eloquent tension between the overt subject matter of her workólife at home and in the familyóand the manner of its presentation. The incantatory rhythms of her wordless “phrasing” frame hand-held shots of “family” activity in sequences that alternate between the absurd and the grotesque. Strung together like memory fragments, the repetitious sequences of Headache ensure that each new element or other sign of change will be scrutinized for its narrative significance, like a clue. The camera does not pull back from close-up until very late in the sequence or montage, and the source of a sound does not appear on camera until minutes after it is heard; by framing and timing, using only slow motion and stilted images as effects, Henderson breaks with the time-structuring, dramatic shot conventions of entertainment television, yet vividly conveys the sensation of life in an alcoholic home (Headache).

From these harshly edited montages and restricted image repertoire arises a poetic truth that, paradoxically, feels authentic because it is so patently a construct. It is up to viewers, displaced from their customary role as “audience” and repositioned as “witness” to verify the states of being evoked in these tapes. Perhaps the withholding of narrative closure, coupled with Hendersonís foregrounding of the fact of presentation, may be understood as critical metaphors for a life touched by addiction and psychological dysfunction.

Dorain Henderson received her BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1994.

From “Prospect Series” by I. Jenkner

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