Born 1969, Los Angeles, California; lives in Paris, France

Cameron Jamie’s work—a blend of video, sound, performance, photography, and drawing—deals with European and American history and culture, in particular their dysfunctional manifestations. His sharp critical gaze often focuses on ritualistic practices in popular culture, and his intricate work has its background in the artist’s own folklore and mythologies. Using American suburban culture as a case study, he analyzes how the structures of mythology are shaped and shared, and the extent to which they participate in the creation of individuals’ fictional worlds and fictional selves. BB (2000) was filmed after a long investigation of the backyard-wrestling phenomenon in Southern California, in which teenage boys imitate the moves of their favorite wrestling stars with equal measures of athleticism, sexuality, violence, and aimlessness. For two years Jamie followed groups of young people in the San Fernando Valley, shooting videos, going to their wrestling shows, and integrating himself into their community. Eventually, he abandoned the video footage he’d made and shot BB in black-and-white Super 8 film with no sound and edited it in-camera. He added a soundtrack—the timeless, demented, slow, forceful music of The Melvins (who have accompanied the film in live performances)—creating a dreamlike state and reinforcing the nightmarish spectacle of the backyard ritual. In BB Jamie takes the documentary format to a new level, to what he has referred to as a purgatory state—a middle ground that, in his view, is perfectly embodied in the very notion of the suburb. BB is one of a trilogy of films that explores quasi-macabre folk rituals. Another film, Kranky Klaus (2002–3), looks at a Christmas ritual in rural Austria involving a shaggy creature known as the Krampus, which visits villages to punish those who have misbehaved. Ominous and intense, these films examine folk ritual and theater as an outlet for people to comment on their own culture and to express fantasies and ideas about themselves.

Death and resurrection, fact and fiction, and a twisted cultural memory of patriotism, Catholicism, and European history pervade Jamie’s film JO (2004), which centers on the figure and iconic power of Joan of Arc, the martyr-heroine of the artist’s adopted country of France. The film presents an intense transatlantic nightmare in which the saint became the inspiration for a type of deep-cooked french fries sold in fast-food stalls in the San Fernando Valley during Jamie’s youth. In it, we witness an annual 400-year-old historical reenactment in Orléans, France, in her honor; an extreme right-wing nationalist rally and ceremony held at the statue of the saint in Paris, and a competitive hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island. Force-fed and apocalyptic in its analysis of cultural bankruptcy, JO suggests the mythology of martyrdom as an analogy for the damaged, half-digested, and macabre cultural forms of the present.

MA/PV more about this artist in the Biennial Catalogue

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Study for Kranky Klaus, 2002. Gelatin silver print, 10¼ x 14 in. (26 x 35.6 cm). Collection of the artist; courtesy Bernier/Eliades Gallery, Athens

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