Gillian Wearing created Two into One in 1997, a video depicting a lip-synched dialogue a mother and her two sons. The voice-overs are executed with such precision it’s hardly unbelievable, and for that matter a bit disturbing. The first subject to appear on the screen is a woman seated casually in front of the camera. In the raspy, boyish tone of her eleven year old son, she exclaims that she is “intelligent and sophisticated,” which is all at once humorous and belittling.
The camera then switches over to Lawrence, who speaks in his mother’s gentle voice, expressing that he is “loving and adorable.” As humans we carry deep felt thoughts towards one-another, yet these feelings hardly ever are expressed. With video and artistic ingenuity, Wearing holds the key to the minds of her subjects, probing their inner information and making it public as part of her work. As the play continues between the subjects in the video, the viewer learns more about each individual and the family dynamics at heart.
In short, the mother with her dark, droopy eyes conveys her fatigue over the way she is treated by her children. The children, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to care less about the way she feels. Between mother and child, there is a hidden yet fully transparent love-hate relationship that holds them together, but also keeps them apart. This is suggested by the voices they share and the space separation between themselves and the camera. Of her works Wearing has said, "I'm always trying to find ways of discovering new things about people, and in the process discover more about myself."
Indeed, Two into One lends a new perspective on how we view what it means to be in domestic relation. Though we exhibit two different sides of ourselves towards family members, we ironically come together as “one.” Wearing also sheds light on the interdependent glue that binds all those affiliated by marital union. What is perhaps most illuminating of this video is that although the father is not present he often spoken of: The boys frequently measure their mother up to their father, and the mother admits that she likes the controlling aspect of men. What role does the father play in this particular scenario? He is obviously an influential figure to both his wife and children though he is not even in “the picture.”
In the end, the mother acknowledges that even though her children can be cruel, she still loves them. And even though the boys say their mother is a “failure,” they still express her valuable qualities towards them. In an interview conducted by Leo Edelstein of Journal of Contemporary Art, Wearing states, “I'm a very forward looking person, but what interests me is the idea of what happens to your life. It's like when you're young you think you're going to know the same people for the rest of your life and you never do, people slip through your net of contacts. When you get older you end up getting more involved in what you're doing, and seeing less and less of the people you know. I'm quite intrigued about what happens.”
Wearing began photographing and filming people early on in her art career, building her oeuvre as a conceptual artist since the early nineties. She was born in 1963 in Birmingham, England, and studied at the Chelsea School of art in London and at Goldsmiths College. For her video influence, she has noted the popular British television 7- Up series. The shows documented the lives of seven British children raised with different social backgrounds, following and broadcasting them within seven-year intervals at a time.
In 1997, Wearing was awarded the Turner Prize for her video titled 60 minutes of Silence created in 1996. For this piece, she had a group of people dress in police attire and stand motionless for the duration of one full hour, a commentary she says “…is about authority, restraint, and control." Her prize was announced as part of a British program featuring another renowned English artist, Tracey Emin. For her most recent work, Wearing made a video in 2006 called Family History. This piece reveals her continued influence from television and people as her main source of reference for her media art. Lastly, Wearing is prominently known for her 2009 piece titled Me as Mapplethorpe, which demonstrates her use of direct reference. Here she is photographed standing behind a life-like replica of the renowned artist Robert Mapplethorpe, only showing her eyes through the sockets of the manikin’s face.
7-up British television hit-series that influenced Wearing's work. I wish we could see the other children as well!
This is a video summary of Wearing's works--giving you an idea of her influence and how she influences others.
A video installation featuring the works of various artists including Gillian who appears from 3:17-48.
Wearing created videos where she asked people to "confess all" on tape. Her subjects wore odd, funny masks to conceal their identities.
Wearing made a video of herself dancing in the middle of a shopping mall in Peckam, London, in 1994. As the video above shows, enthusiastic fans follow in her lead! Skank'n it?