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Suburban Attractions

'Pardon my French' is a common English phrase used to excuse obscene language. The phrase has found widespread use on broadcast television and in family films, where potentially offensive words are followed by the expression in order to emphasise their meaning and simultaneously dodge censorship or rating guidelines. Some believe 'Pardon my French' originated in the nineteenth century; others trace it back to World War I; still others say it was popularised by 1950s intellectuals who were well-versed in French. Whatever the origin, it reflects the Anglo-Saxon association of the French with vulgarity, also evident in terms such as 'French pox' (for genital herpes), 'French-sick' (for syphilis) or 'French novels' (for sexually explicit).

The sense of media literacy and centuries-old traces (even scars), the awareness of motifs and influences that travel from one country to another and from one century to the next, and the acknowledgement of what is generally considered too vulgar to even be mentioned are all recurring elements in work of Cameron Jamie, an American artist who has lived in Paris for the past seven years. For instance, his Neotoma Tape (1983-95) is a compilation of public-access television recordings, including excerpts of New-Age aerobics classes, interviews with obsessed fans of heavy-metal music or bands such as Sonic Youth and The Go-Go's, segments of parents discussing paganism and Satanism, talk shows with porn stars and born-again Christians and footage of teenage brothers vomiting in shopping malls. Jamie likes to direct our attention towards the weirdest (but in his opinion the most genuine) obsessions and fantasies that surface in everyday life...

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