Cover image of the review

Cover Versions: Mimicry and Resistance
  • Kate Warren

10 Dec 2017
Shepparton Art Museum 11 Nov 2017 - 14 Jan 2018

There is nothing I enjoy more than a good impersonation. I recently came across a video of a young Martin Short appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The conversation had turned to the various impressions that Short was working on, when off-camera a voice is heard to ask, “Do you do me?” It’s actress Bette Davis, who had been Carson’s guest prior. Without missing a beat, Short turns to Davis and says, in pitch-perfect imitation of her distinctive voice, “Well, I mean, you aren’t that easy to do!” Short’s mimicry is so spot-on, in fact, that Davis fails to recognise it as an impersonation of herself. It is an extremely funny moment that captures the pleasures of good impersonations, but also their innate subversiveness. Impressions always exceed their referents – they threaten to unsettle the established order, to make visible new understandings paradoxically through acts of repetition and copying.

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