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The Beauty Is Relentless; The Short Movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby

Edited by Mike Hoolboom Designed by Alana Wilcox Published by Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA) & Pleasure Dome Printed at Coach House Printing 160 pages ISBN 978-0-9682115-5-7 $22 + postage $5 Can/ US $10/ $15 Int.

The Beauty is Relentless; The Short Movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby is a book of essays about the art of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby. As creators they sit on the frontiers of the imagination, excavating wonder from the hidden recesses of the body. Their complex oeuvre cracks open the imagination. Quite simply, their collected video works are a stunning display of storytelling. This publication takes an interdisciplinary approach in deciphering the work of Duke and Battersby, inviting experts from the fields of animal studies, video art, installation practice, queer theory, music and literature to weigh in on the complex ingenuity of their practice.” Full Excerpt of Forward by Andrea Cooper & Dave Liss and Introduction by Mike Hoolboom below

“The literary post-punk short movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby have been tearing up the festival/gallery circuit for the past fifteen years with their blend of bedroom pop, perverse animations and hopes for fame. In this collection of award-winning scripts, creative writings and critical missives, scholars, video legends and animal experts – including Steve Reinke, Sarah Hollenberg, Akira Mizuta Lippit and Tom Sherman – weigh in on why these movies matter.” (Mike Hoolboom)

Table of Contents

Forward by Andrea Cooper & David Liss
Introduction by Mike Hoolboom

Essays:
Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Jason McBride
White Cat to Duke, Do You Read Me? by Claudia Dey
Crazy Pinkie Business by Sholem Krishtalka
An Uncivilised Love by Kyo Maclear
The Song Sung of Emily & Cooper by Terence Dick
Important Things That We Like by Andrea Slováková
People who make rules: Watch Out! by Tom Sherman
My Life (With Duke and Battersby) by Steve Reinke
Dear Steve Reinke by Emily Duke
Audiences: An Interview by Sarah Hollenberg and Mike Hoolboom
Beauty Plus Pity: An Interview by Monique Moumblow
Copula by Akira Mizuta Lippit

Writings:
Songs of Praise (Script)
Lesser Apes (Script)
Videos
Biography
Distributors

EXCERPT:

Foreword
Andrea Cooper and David Liss

It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction, yet truths may
be best understood through fiction, through the stories, para-
bles, and mythologies that we create to make sense of what is
essentially the abject nature of our mortal existence. We are
born, we live, and we die. But, of course, another truth is that
nothing is ever that simple. That is only where the story begins.
At the thematic core of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby’s art is their unflinching contemplation of the beautiful mess of what it means to be human. Drawing inspiration from pop culture, animated cartoons, environmentalism, sex, drugs, science, and magic, and often taking the perspective of various animal species, they wryly examine the idiosyncracies of human behaviour through our relationships to each other, to nature, and to the apparent inevitabilities and unseen forces that govern our existence. Their video work in particular is a trig-
ger point for unexpected emotions and curious behaviour. It’s
like accidentally stumbling upon a trap door that leads to a
secret universe. Project coordinator and editor Mike Hoolboom
refers to their videos as a “celebration of curiosity,” but they are
also a celebration of our absurdly wicked universe.
To understand their work is to laugh and cry, to be horri-
fied and uplifted, and to be depressed and joyful of our shared
circumstances. In many ways they mock our behaviours and in
doing so entertain and engage our imaginations, attuning our
awareness to our surroundings and perhaps providing us with
some glimmer of an insight into who we are, into this crazy
thing that we call life. It is their tenacious curiosity and critical
voice that has inspired the Museum of Contemporary Canadian
Art and Pleasure Dome to publish this volume on their extra –
ordinary body of work.

The Beauty is Relentless is a book of essays about the art
of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby. As creators they sit
on the frontiers of the imagination, excavating wonder from the
hidden recesses of the body. Their complex oeuvre cracks open
the imagination. Quite simply, their collected video works are a
stunning display of storytelling. This publication takes an inter-
disciplinary approach in deciphering the work of Duke and
Battersby, inviting experts from the fields of animal studies,
video art, installation practice, queer theory, music, and litera-
ture to weigh in on the complex ingenuity of their practice.
Included here are a suite of eleven essays, ten of which were
commissioned for this book, while Jason McBride’s ‘Enormous
Changes at the Last Minute,’ originally published in Cinema
Scopein 2006, was too good to resist reprinting. The new writ-
ings are by Claudia Dey, Terence Dick, Sarah Hollenberg,
Sholem Krishtalka, Akira Mizuta Lippit, Kyo Maclear, Monique
Moumblow, Steve Reinke, Tom Sherman, and Andrea Slováková,
and we are grateful to them for their astute contributions.
It is quite fitting that The Beauty is Relentlesscontains eight
provocative and beautifully written works by Emily Vey Duke
because words anchor their art and inspire the audience through
audacious, bold, and beautiful storytelling. Duke and Battersby
create a new kind of narrative that is part drawing, part poem,
and part performance, using its disparate elements to create new
conversations.
This publication is the most recent collaboration between
the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and Pleasure
Dome, and we are very pleased to join together in supporting
the extraordinary work of Duke and Battersby. We are
extremely grateful to the artists and to all who have contributed
to the project.
Andrea Cooper was a Pleasure Dome collective member and curator from 2007 to 2012. David Liss is the Artistic Director of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

Introduction
Mike Hoolboom

“There is a visual shorthand I use for each of my friends to
keep their celestial heat from turning me into stir-fry.
There is one I think of only as “that face,” while another has been
reduced to a pair of hands always opening. The caption I run
under Emily and Cooper is simple enough; they are the future
of the couple. While so many dyads use their togetherness as a
fortress against the world, bulwarked behind the tragedies of
monogamy, Vey Battersduke seem determined to push against
every border and boundary until it gives way under their cele-
bration of curiosity.
And once they have worked themselves outside of the rules,
their newly won vantage offers a pretty good place from which
to make art, though this is not a word that comes easily to them.
Literature remains the hoped-for grail, while art is the disap-
pointed bride that they have decided to embrace. The truth is,
they have little patience for most of what passes for video art
these days, or any other day, and as a result their post-human
offerings are tuned up with a rare and exacting invocation of
standards. Imagine an indie pop producer demanding all-night
studio sessions for her young charges, take after take, until the
new tunes lift at every corner.
In an art moment frozen in thrall to the sway of conceptu-
alisms, their work is narrative, hummable, humanoid, and invites
identification. Hand-drawn cartoons let animal familiars talk to
us about children and God and Daddy’s porn. Stripped down
bedroom pop and home-video makeovers jostle with time-lapse
compressions unafraid to be beautiful. They don’t proceed with
a plan or program; instead, they throw themselves out the
windows of their own needs and despairs and wonders, opening
their four-armed embrace to homeless island dwellers and feral
cats and art mavens. From these close encounters they have
created a rare video voice: at once smart and accessible, beauti-
ful and word-wise.
Instead of falling in love with Emily, and of course with
Cooper—the two are inseparable, in nearly every sense that
matters—we began to correspond, to fill up long text fields with
characters, most of them unrecognizable as ourselves—and
that brought more relief than perhaps it should have. Our mail-
ings run well past a hundred pages, and one day it will be the
best thing I’ve ever been part of, in the art-world, meta-lingo
sense of things, that is. One afternoon she wrote:
I had a really interesting conversation with my friend
Mequitta about the accusation (much flung at me as a
younger person) that one is ‘just doing it for attention.’
IT usually being trying to kill one’s self, or cutting, or
posting the pages of one’s diary around town. Nobody,
for instance, said that Flaubert was just trying to write
great novels for attention, or that Jesus was just being
the Messiah for attention. Nobody even says (or not
much) that Bob Dylan was just writing those folk songs
for attention. People did, however, say that Carolee
Schneeman was getting naked and rolling around in
sausage for attention. People said that Vito Acconci was
just making The Red Tapes for attention (specifically
Rosalind Krauss said it).
Two years ago, in a fit of masochism and hope, I proposed
to Emily and Cooper that we make a movie together. If we were
still without a general public’s attention, then perhaps we could
grant this gift to one another. They said sure and I proceeded
to blitz the two of them (can a chest hold two hearts?) with one
idea after another—uncanny songs, genius quotes, found-
footage irresistibles. When is too much too little? They were
interested in bonobos, as it turned out, a matriarchal society of
nearly vegetarian peacenik apes who have sex often and in
every possible combination. We staggered through a year and
a half of foreign-language mistranslations and pyramid studies
before divvying up the pile and heading our separate ways. I
worked relentlessly and managed to uncover only new begin-
nings, while they continued to live every weekend as if it were
the last one on the planet and then screamed out a movie with
a Sobey deadline pressing on their chests that will be watched
for years to come. “So this is what it was like to live in 2010,”
some stranger will mutter, wondering that movies could ever
have been made, never mind attended, that were flat, and lack-
ing any sense of touch, taste, or smell. Yes, this is what it was
like. Welcome to the future of the couple.”

E&C FINAL COVER
THE BEAUTY IS RELENTLESS; The Short Movies of Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby
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