davis & davis, the mechanics of a lie
by Sean Patrick Dockray

thirty4 Istanbul, Turkey  fall 05

Before Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones there was Johnny Cash. And before Johnny Cash came a tall, muscular man in a black suit who invited a UFO-sighter named Harold Dahl to a local diner for eggs and bacon. Although Dahl hadn't told anyone about the UFO, the stranger already knew the details and suggested that Harold's family would be in danger if anyone else learned of the incident. This was the first of the reported "Men In Black," a product of American folk culture that flourished throughout the Cold War.

Denise and Scott Davis, known together as the artist team Davis & Davis, have been producing their own little army of animatronic Men In Black for a series of installations that crosses conspiracy theory with pop culture. 1 Year Later is a full-scale recreation of a Robert Frank photograph: three men sit in a covered '57 Cadillac whispering along to Johnny Cash singing Cry, Cry, Cry on the car radio. EFAC is a smaller installation made of a cafe table, two chairs, an empty coffee cup, a tabletop jukebox, and a printout of UFO disinformation; through the window, one sees the desert adjacent to Area 51 and the silhouettes of two Men In Black whispering threats to each other.

EFAC gives us something that 1 Year Later does not: a view behind the screen: peeking around the side of the wall, we can see the electronics, mechanics and light that animate the scene. It's not that EFAC exposes the truth. Rather, it reveals how persuasive and fun a contrivance can be.