shootout, 2003
installation view and stills, sculpture center, nyc
continuous loop dual channel dvd projections, plexiglass
dimensions variable


A blonde and a brunette dressed in identical gray uniforms face one another in opposing projections. They aim a prop gun at each other. The action is a mirrored reflection.

Simultaneously the women open fire. As the shots go off a spray of comic "gunfire" immediately covers them both. The viewer quickly discovers the guns do not shoot bullets. Instead the guns shoot a chaotic mass of pink silly string, which is often used as a party gimmick. As the spree continues the women are covered in an increasing mass of foam.

The sound of gunfire is replaced by the hissing of aerosol cans and the pulsating discharge of the string. As the cans eventually empty, the spray becomes a pathetic dribble. Image and sound fade into a red screen. The red acts as an overly dramatic convention alluding to death in a most obvious manner. Fading back into the scene the women lay dramatically against the wall in which they were both shot. A snap shot of the crime scene. Draped in string they appear dead or as the silly string suggests simply passed out from partying too hard. It is obvious that the action is falsified and that the women are "faking it".

Initially the violent intentions of the action are playfully transformed by the material into a campy cartoon gesture. But the pink foam disguises a very dark celebration. The women's deadpan expressions reveal the true nature of their game. The action is re-contextualized through the character of the gimmick. Shoot out explores the play between illusion and reality, comedy and horror.

Shoot Out is dual projection video installation that functions sculpturally by activating the space between two opposing projections. The positioning of the projected videos places the viewer within the center of the action. By nature of the installation, the viewer is given the option of witnessing the action from the sidelines or stepping into the line of fire. By voluntarily getting caught in the middle of the action, the viewer is then victim, mediator and a participant of the work.

Set against a concrete wall, the location of the action appears ambiguous. The installation is incorporated into the architectural space where the footage was originally filmed. In essence the footage is camouflaged within the space. The gray uniforms of the women help to blend the characters into the setting and focus the viewer’s attention on the action of the subjects’ hands and faces. Projected onto plexi-glass as rear screen projections, the characters function as surrogate performers in the space.

The use of digital media in our video work allows for the manipulation of time and space, by mimicking classic movie making trickery with the use of new technology. This combination of old and new film making techniques creates a new stylistic form and acts satirically in relation to Hollywood produced action films. The common Hollywood pairing of slapstick and violence is explored, in a purposely lame and amateur attempt. Such examples are the fades in and out of red to suggest a violent passage of time or the staged posture of the "dead" women.

Similar to all our work, we use non-collaborative actions and re-contextualize them in a collaborative manor. In Shoot Out we examine violence with no aggressor and no victim, both characters act as equal participants, although their unique personality traits surface. In Shoot out the guns do not shoot bullets, but shoot silly string. When the pseudo blood is sprayed onto the characters, the characters do not physically bleed. The application makes reference to the result of violence without showing any of the actual aggression inherent in violence, similar to children’s play. We make a parody of female action films (girls with guns), and explore this by making stylistic choices inherent in western and action films.

all images © Diana Shpungin & Nicole Engelmann 2000-2007