DOG DAYS, a single-channel video, follows Issy Van Der Leden’s Cabin Fever (2020) with the same hectic vlog format. Van Der Leden leads her audience through internet rabbit holes and personal monologues in a search for the Jungian archetype of The Simp.
Immediately we are introduced to ideas of astrology and mysticism in the opening lines, setting the tone for the investigation. The title also nods to Hellenistic astrology, the “Dog Days” being the hottest days of the year referenced in ancient literature as a time of mad dogs and misfortune (the period during which the artist was making the work). Van Der Leden gives the impression of having an earnest investment in the search for The Simp yet there is an undertone of skepticism amplified by the irony inherent in the collated clips. The discordant collection of found video ranges from Jordan Peterson to The Simpsons, with documentaries and YouTube’s self-proclaimed philosophers between.
On the title screen, positioned around “DOG DAYS” like categories on an alchemy chart, are the words “Transformative”, “Augmentation”, “The Inevitable” and “Cycles”. This implies Van Der Leden’s own framework of meaning imposed on the work.
There is a part in Cabin Fever where Van Der Leden learns the definition of “ontology” – which seems to drive the narrative in DOG DAYS – looking at the origin of things, the way systems fit together, understanding relationships between things. Van Der Leden problematises the Jungian archetypes – which are supposed to represent the range of basic human motivations – going against the Jungian motivation for the artist as one who provides structure, not one who breaks it down. Van Der Leden disavows the feminine and masculine binaries as structures used to make sense of the world, mentioning Hera, the earth mother being universal in all cultures, chaos as feminine and order masculine. The search for The Simp is more a search for a sense-making structure or universal truth.
There’s a haunting sequence, accompanied by a dramatic piano track, where a documentary voiceover tells us about how fleas in a jar will never jump higher than the level set by the lid. This is spliced with clips of two less-than-bright Youtubers who have never heard of Da Vinci (they pronounce da-vin-key). We learn that when the fleas reproduce, their offspring will inherit their parents’ learned boundary.
Irony gives way to a dark sense of pessimism for the fate of humankind, augmented by the internet. The film ends abruptly with no obvious resolution. Then it loops.
Issy Van Der Leden DOG DAYS
Paludal, 2 Papanui Road, Christchurch
12 February – 6 March, for hours see: paludal_chch
Issy Van Der Leden, still from DOG DAYS