Colin Gee’s I, who am the chorus is a series of seventeen short video character studies mapped onto the powerfully iconic city of Rome. Viewed in any order, each video features an almost immobilized Gee, poised in front of an oddly uninhabited scene from the urban built environment—an ancient piazza, a residential street, the entrance to a door, stairs leading to an unknown destination, a bridge, a crossroads, the ruins of a Roman temple.
Drawing upon the stylized theatrical languages of commedia dell’arte, melodrama, and circus, Gee’s character encounters each scene as a series of overwhelming obstacles, confusions, and uncertainties triggered by seemingly simple tasks. His stripped-down, sometimes enigmatic, but carefully calculated gestures—a slight tilt of the head, shifting glances, small articulations of the finger and wrists, isolated movements of his shoulder or torso—invite the viewer to participate in a subtly nuanced microdrama of the everyday, simultaneously profound and mundane.
Gee’s careful appropriation and framing of each scene, emptied of all human activity—except for the occasional rustling of leaves, the chance appearance of a pigeon, or cacophonous squawking of birds—transforms the built environment into a potent object of contemplation, an apparatus for psychic, emotional, and narrative projection. By reducing each moment to the fewest elements possible, Gee creates a productive gap between what we see and hear, and what we expect and anticipate. But the big “event” never happens. Instead, we are propelled to fill in the answers to: Who is this character? What is he seeing? How did he arrive, where did he come from, where is he going, and what prevents him from moving? (We never see the character’s feet in any of the scenes.) Will he arrive at a destination sometime in the future? Who and what will he encounter? Gee’s character is the “I” in I, who am the chorus. Deliberately avoiding psychological naturalism and motivation, Gee stands in for the collective voice, the fragile and vulnerable Everyman, metaphorically poised against historical forces he cannot control.
One of the many satisfying experiences of viewing the work, is the pleasurable dialogue Gee creates between portrait and landscape, foreground and background, cinema and theater. And finally, with all its minimalism, the work compels us to notice an even smaller scale of detail and increasing complexity in the world around us.
Wayne Ashley, Founding Artistic Director, FuturePerfect March 16, 2013