“It may be true that the uncanny is nothing else than a hidden, familiar thing that has undergone repression and then emerged from it,” wrote Freud in 1919. Martin Arnold’s recent films take early cartoons by Disney, MGM or Warner Brothers as their starting point and raw material, and manipulate them through a series of precise digital interventions of image and sound in order to reveal within them sites of anxiety and repression. The familiar bodies of Mickey Mouse, his dog Pluto and friend Donald Duck, and the comforting Americana of their surrounding environment are dislocated so that while still recognizable, they are swathed in a thick darkness that amputates their constituent elements. Arnold’s earliest works, such as Piece Touchée (1989) or Passage a L’Acte (1993) employed similar techniques using black and white feature films of the 1950s, films which shared the early cartoons’ vision of the still idealistic American dream that constituted the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. Picturing the intact family unit, they suggest any disturbances that may arise to come from the outside, not from within. Through a minute process of re-organisation, however, Arnold arrests the narrative flow by shifting the frames back and forth in tiny increments to produce a relentless tourettes-like stuttering which holds action at bay in a sequence of delays and interruptions. As if performing an autopsy on the editing table, Arnold shifts the register of these films to reveal the repression and neuroses that lurk beneath the appearance of the happy family.
(Kirsty Bell, One need not be a chamber to be haunted, in: Martin Arnold, Gross Anatomies, Verlag für moderne Kunst, Vienna 2015)