Malaise, deceit, perpetual tug-of-war – they are all parts of a vigorous marriage. Or so we infer from the recent work of Sheila and Nick Pye, a married couple of six years whose collaborative output often explores the psychological minefield of committed relations.
In their film installation A Life of Errors – on display along with a series of photos – the strange and sometimes subtle power struggles that arise as folks submit to one another are given bleak and slightly baroque caricature.
A couple (played by the Pyes) living in a dilapidated apartment engages in strange activities that reek of subtext, such as a passive game of tug-of-war played with a fraying rope. The two lean back on their heels while the rope frays further and further before snapping and sending them both to the floor. A makeup kiss births a pink-ribbon tongue that binds them as they move apart into separate bedrooms. In another dubious game, Sheila leads a blindfolded Nick around broken glass on the floor. In the accompanying photos, Sheila and Nick drown separately in a bathtub, set fire to mattresses and, in one particularly uplifting shot, make out covered in topsoil. We know life is messy, but the Pyes make it look worthwhile. –Josh Tyson