LA><ART is pleased to present the debut screening of Behavior, a new film work by Los Angeles based artist William Leavitt. In his sculptures, paintings, drawings, films, plays and performance tableaus Leavitt has consistently presented uncanny scenes of domestic life, the built environment, and social interaction—familiar yet estranging representations of Americana that evidence their own artifice and disassociated temporality. Consequently, Leavitt’s work offers an encounter, suspended in time, with a cultural landscape that demands to be incessantly updated. The artist’s fifth film work, Behavior responds to the cultural emphasis on constantly refreshing attention through anachronisms and by way of an extended focus on expectant moments rather than their outcome.
Leavitt’s Behavior closely follows a loosely intertwined narrative between clustered relationships. The beginning of the film centers around a male and female roommate, two youthful characters named Seth and Deanna without clear romantic affiliation. The storyline then quickly branches out to include the roommates’ circles of friends and neighbors. The narrative setup, as well as the call and response dialogue, immediately invokes American sitcoms and reality television. Identifying how Behavior reproduces or subverts the conventions of popular television is increasingly complicated however by Leavitt’s sculpture as mise-en-scene, and the film’s pivots between deadpan and melodrama. By situating each scene within his sculpture-cum-stage sets, Leavitt amplifies and reverberates the theatrical, disorienting familiar representations of time and place. The fluidity between satire and earnest reflection in Behavior further necessitates a close viewing and listening of the film, underscored by the oracular delivery of dialogue. Rather than prescribe determined techniques for subverting the conventions of sitcoms and reality television, Leavitt recognizes that Brechtian distancing and alienation effects have become an expected device within popular television. Eschewing this determined approach to critique, Behavior instead draws from the history, theory and practice of Theatricality to emphasize the illusory qualities of all representation, as well as to recognize popular media’s expanding capacity for mimesis.