Single Channel Video, 2001, 8 min., loop
(for screening or installation)
The Oral Thing casts the TV host as evangelist. Descending as if from heaven he enters down a staircase to preside over two sisters cast as TV chat show guests/victims. Restrained by red and green plastic tubes the sisters have no means of agency other than talk, they are literally reduced to the oral.
The sound is dubbed dialogue from the American morning chat show Maury and initially appears to be purely a parody of that format. However, increasingly the talk becomes darker. Child abuse is suggested making the specific context of the oral thing clear. Again repetition in the form and iconography of the work reveal the reduction of important issues to ritual and spectacle. The equation with evangelism allows Melhus to not only underline the increasingly central place that TV has in our lives, but also to test ideas of truth and belief.
Videography: Stojan Angelovski
Costume Design & Make-up: Julia Neuenhausen
Computer Images: Mike Orthwein
Sound Effects: Niels Müller
Production Assistance: Yvonne Brandl
Special Mention, 10th Marl Video Prize
Parodying the quasi-religious and confessional aspect of daytime television shows, THE ORAL THING exposes them not as being of salvation, but rather as satisfying the mass media desire for sensationalism. Broadcast daily to the moralising and consuming mass of millions—represented here by identical monk-like figures stripped of individuality—the narcissistic host devotes his energies to extracting the juiciest confessions of incest, sex and violence from the sacrificial guests. A media messiah, creator of the guests, he controls the levers of suspense, perversely pitting aggressor against victim only to provoke a switch of roles just before the commercial break. The screw is turned with a swirling storm of repetition: Did one have sex for a thousand cigarettes? Limbless and asexual body blobs topped with talking heads, attention is ironically most focused on the guests’ transgressive corporal activities. Did one really have sex for a cigarette? The abyss opens up and the shocked audience reacts to each emblematic word as a choir of indignation. Confronted with the blank faces of the audience, the victims end up fighting one another in a fratricidal act of self-destruction. They both loose, but it is in their defeat the entertainment of millions is assured.