When you’re listening to Karen Carpenter singing ‘Close To You’, do you dream she’s singing to you? Or do you dream you’re her, singing to some object of love? Or do you hear the words like a fiction? I’m not sure about how to answer that question for myself, and I hadn’t really thought about it until I saw Candice Breitz‘s ‘Double Karen’ (currently at the MOMA Oxford) a while back. In ‘Double Karen’, footage is cut and spliced to have Karen Carpenter singing ‘Me’ Me’ Me’.’ from one TV screen and ‘You’ You’ You” from another. It sets up temporary, jerky rhythms and sets me off thinking about who’s me and who’s you for Karen and for me and for you and, oh well, I hope you see what I mean.

The larger Breitz installation at MOMA, which I think is called Re-animations, had me thinking about the same things: walking in, you (I) see a bunch of TV screens, each showing a famous passage from a hit movie, each featuring a female lead talking about love or relationships. The headphones you’re given allow you to hear the monologue from the TV nearest you. Around the back of each TV is another screen showing another film: Candice herself lip-synching in perfect time. Again, I ended up thinking about (self-)identification and gender roles, about acting and not-acting. Away from a narrative context, I’m being asked: when I see this piece of acting craft, hear this speech, am I being the actress for a minute, trying those feelings on for size? It’s brilliant, funny, subtly provocative and slightly confusing.

Over in the Guardian, Adrian Searle doesn’t fancy this stuff at all. He shows an unseemly, condescending distaste for pop cultural references and completely fails to engage with anything that the brilliant Breitz does with the potent pictures she (ab-)uses. Instead he busies himself with laying into easy targets (‘the media studies crowd’ indeed!) and dismissing the critical texts provided, which just aren’t the art.

That’s not to say the show is perfect. In parts it’s disappointingly hung: ‘Double Karen’, for example, loses much of its power by being installed across a stairwell and being at insufficient volume; Jim Lambie‘s large room could have been emptier or fuller. But I like the way it intersects with the Lambie floors, the way that Breitz pushing you to identification with the artists you’re watching fits with the way Lambie makes you feel the art is all around.

If Searle spent half as long wondering about what CB’s work actually does rather than airily dismissing the pop-cultural raw material and the critical chat, he might have had something to say which didn’t read like so many knee-jerks. His review’s barely fit for Private Eye and I couldn’t be more damning than that.