Voice on tape: The reverse alterity of Alison S.M. Kobayashi’s Dan Carter


In 2005, Mississauga-based artist Alison S.M. Kobayashi found an answering machine in a thrift store which once belonged to a man named Dan Carter. The following year, she used the machine’s tape as the soundtrack for her video work Dan Carter. In the video, Kobayashi performs all of the people who leave messages on Dan Carter’s answering machine, as well as many of the people who are mentioned in the messages. The central argument is that although Dan Carter deals with notions of identity; Kobayashi, rather than playing self or other, plays upon the permeable boundary between the two in a kind of ‘reverse alterity.’
The actions Kobayashi performs for the camera do not always reflect the message contents, and the performances are not complete re-enactments. Upon critical investigation, Dan Carter reveals itself as built across a spectrum of oppositional relationships: aural/visual, public/private, past/present, material/immaterial, narrative/non-narrative, fiction/non-fiction, found/created. The answering machine tape soundtrack in Dan Carter, along with the creative restrictions Kobayashi has imposed, make the video both authored and authorless, narrative and non-narrative, textual and anti-textual – placing the video not in the category of being ‘neither/nor’, but rather, the category of ‘both/and.’ These relationships can be interpreted as assisting Kobayashi with her central artistic problem: using exteriority to express or depict interior lives. This MRP discusses why Dan Carter deserves a place in the canon of Canadian video art, and the corpus of video art in general.

-Jennifer Matotek

Jennifer Matotek is a videomaker, artist, curator and writer based in Toronto.