Ornament and Crime: Figuring out Space in Damages.

Curator's Note

Ellen Parson’s position as an attorney at Hewes and Associates promises aesthetic regeneration as career advancement. Her new job comes with a new wardrobe and, later, a new apartment. After a threatening incident Hewes and her employees decamp to Hewes’ voluminous apartment; Ellen’s apartment is always an extension of Hewes and Associates’ corporate space. Interior space is conspicuously large and largely empty. Personal spaces are territorialized by work demands; demarcations between work (labor) and home (play) are important in this show, precisely (of course) because they are not clear. This lack of clarity works to the advantage of public over private life: work occupies all corners of home, but early on Ellen is advised not to “personalise” her office at Hewes and Associates. So here’s a typical message about the world of late capitalism, only ornament and crime refigure the problem of space. Along with the intrusive pigeon that breach domestic borders to observe the crime scene, a pair of bookends trace an erratic course through the series. The pair is given to Ellen in playful irony, kitsch markers of her rise. From home they travel to the offices of Hewes and Associates and back, their rotation through space accumulating plot potential as they prove to hold more than their aesthetic value. Early scenes, such as these from the second episode, show that these playful objects have sinister, criminal capacities. Later episodes pair that capacity with another: ornament’s capacity to capture and enfold time; the time of the labour of its production, the time lost in its contemplation. Beyond the convolutions of plot that distinguished Damages another drama unfolds: modernist streamlining of time and space is never accomplished without a residue of play. Small things in large spaces can create their own kind of havoc. In a drama about the calibration of compensation, ornament turn out to be irremediable, surplus to requirements, fatal in its consequence.

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