'Rear Window': Hitchcock-inspired online exhibition explores voyeurism and the gaze


Explore ‘Rear Window’, an online exhibition inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film about the seductions and dangers of looking. Photo: Handout

If lockdown was a movie, it would almost certainly be Rear Window.

How many of us in recent months have spent our days furtively watching our neighbours like James Stewart in the 1954 thriller? Now, the White Cube gallery in London presents an online exhibition exploring voyeurism, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's classic film.

In Rear Window, the photojournalist L.B Jeffries (James Stewart) starts spying on his neighbours when holed up in his apartment after an accident leaves him wheelchair-bound. His neighbours include a composer, a mature couple with a little dog, and a salesman that Jeffries suspects may have murdered his wife.

Exhibition curator Susanna Greeves drew inspiration from L.B Jeffries's obsession when creating Rear Window, the inaugural show in the White Cube's new online viewing room. The show sets out to explore "how artists construct scenes and suggest narratives, whilst exploring the idea of 'the gaze' which Hitchcock's film was instrumental in formulating."

Featured artists include Ellen Altfest, Jeff Burton, Gillian Carnegie, Julie Curtiss, Celia Hempton and Danica Lundy. While Jeff Walls and Carrie Mae Weems step into a filmmaker's shoes to construct their photographs, paintings by Judith Eisler recreate freeze-frame moments from movie scenes selected by the American artist.

Eroticism and exhibitionism are also major themes of the Rear Window exhibition, explored, for example, by works from Ellen Altfest and Celia Hempton. Ellen Altfest turns her gaze to anonymous male subjects, paying meticulous attention to each hair, each vein, each variation in skin tone.

The New York artist explains: "the paintings of men seem to have an inverse relationship to still life, with the men becoming less like human subjects and more like still life objects."

Celia Hempton, on the other hand, paints unknown men she encounters on the social networking website Chatrandom.

"A click brings to her screen men - they are always men - in darkened rooms all over the world, lit by the glare of their screens. She paints them for as long as they are willing to keep the connection open - a fleeting, intense moment while they are the subject of her scrutiny," the White Cube gallery explains in a news release.

The online exhibition Rear Window is open to see in the White Cube gallery's online viewing room until Jan 19, 2021.

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