November 5, 2014 - Kunsthalle Wien - Gareth Long
November 5, 2014

Gareth Long

Gareth Long, The Childress, Texas version of “The Kidnappers Foil,” 1936. Filmed by Melton Barker. Photo courtesy of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image.

Gareth Long
Kidnappers Foil 

14 November 2014–18 January 2015 

Opening: Thursday, November 13, 7pm 

Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier
Museumsplatz 1
1070 Vienna
Hours: Friday–Wednesday 10am–7pm
Thursday 10am–9pm
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For his first solo exhibition in Austria, artist Gareth Long has assembled and re-presented a unique collection of historic films for the first time since their creation; the exhibition offers an intriguing window on to the aesthetic, sociological and technological fabric of mid-20th century America. Invoking notions of iteration, amateurism, originality, and the re-telling of narratives, this unique filmic oeuvre resonates closely with Long’s practice as an artist.

From the mid-1930s to the 1970s, amateur filmmaker Melton Barker travelled across the United States making the same film in town after town, using local children as actors. Titled The Kidnappers Foil, it is estimated that Barker created nearly 300 versions of this film. Barker recognized that many enjoyed seeing themselves, their children and their communities on film. Enlisting local movie theatres and newspapers to sponsor and promote the productions, he auditioned children and offered “acting lessons” to the most promising for a fee of a few dollars. He then assembled 50 to 75 would-be Shirley Temples and Jackie Coopers, aged 3 to 12 years old, to act out the melodramatic story: a young girl, aptly named Betty Davis, is kidnapped from her birthday party and eventually rescued by a search party of local kids. After her rescue, the relieved townsfolk celebrate with a party in which the budding stars showcase their musical talents. A few weeks after filming, the town would screen the 15 to 20-minute picture to the delight of the local audience.

As critic Erika Balsom puts it in her essay about the exhibition, “like Barker before him, Long fully inhabits the realm of iteration, but puts repetition in the service of the production of difference: the artwork Kidnappers Foil possesses a significance quite other than Barker’s films of the same name, a significance generated through the acts of assembly and reframing. Exhibited together in a context that is historically, institutionally, and geographically distant from those for which they were intended, these films no longer offer the pleasures of recognition they once did to their first audiences. Rather, Long takes a parallax view on this strange episode of film history, finding in it very contemporary questions of serial repetition and amateur participation.”

Most prints of these films have been lost, but approximately 15 have been discovered in vintage movie houses or local historical societies and subsequently archived. The films will be projected as in installation on separate screens together in one gallery space so that viewers can see across the multiple iterations at one time, dissolving the boundaries between each film.

Gareth Long (b. 1979, Toronto, Canada) is an artist based in London. His work has been shown at MoMA PS1, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Denver; The Power Plant, Toronto; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Montreal; The Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge; Artists Space, New York; Flat Time House, London; Spike Island, Bristol; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe; Witte de With, Rotterdam; NICC, Antwerp; and University of Tasmania, Hobart.

Katharina Murschetz 
T +43 (0) 1 5 21 89 1221 / katharina.murschetz [​at​] 
Stefanie Obermeir 
T +43 (0) 1 5 21 89 1224 / presse [​at​]


Gareth Long at Kunsthalle Wien
Kunsthalle Wien
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