Multichannel - Variable Economies - ArtSway - 2 - 11 April 2010
Curated by Peter Bonnell from ArtSway, Helen Sloan from SCAN, and joined by Gary Thomas from Animate Projects, the gallery screening was of thirteen works which as well as the theme of the show "reflect current trends in contemporary media arts" .
Followed loosely, the theme of "economic downturn" was largely perceptible only in the sense of global concerns, which were addressed in terms of the films: Reduction: Sunrise to Sunset by Alistair Ruff, a film which documents the cities London, UlaanBaatar, Seoul and Guangzhou, by the rapid movement through photographic still shots - the artist's view of aspects which reflect the dynamic potentialities of those locations ; Tajinder Dhami and Zona Mahir's Cinema 1 : Plastic Faeces, which looks at India's transforming economy that is simultaneously generating new toxic waste, a film that utilizes Dhami's interest in the relationship between technologies and the body, and as they travel by bus and by train the film follows the movement of these vehicles which makes the film-making process almost 'automatic', a process which they occasionally emphasize by artificialy speeding up the film, accelerating the relationship between the technologies; and the film Commonwealth by Katie Davies, which moves in documentary terms between different ceremonial activities in Sheffield Town Hall - citizenship ceremonies (for people emigrating to the UK), council meetings and a brass band performance. This is after all one of the strengths of video : documentary reportage, handled in interesting ways by these artists.
There was also a strong sense of a kind of 'video science fiction', a quality to several of the works: Notes: Part 1 by Charlie Tweed, which reminded me of John Lansdown's Earth, particularly in terms of the nature of the soundtrack which had the effect of portraying 'another race' looking at the Earth. The piece was composed from an archive of "appropriated digital material" , and gives the sense of aliens looking at the Earth's resources and wanting to control, and trying to understand its environment; similarly Dan Walwin's Silencer uses a 'fantasy' created through the dialogue between an actor playing two parts, a technique which again reminds us this is a video construct; in one he is helplessly drowning, while in the other role he interrogates the other from the safety of a boat, in terms of trying to extract information about the nature of 'the source'. The result was like a dialogue with the self about exploiting the world's natural resources; about the refusal to acknowledge and resist these practices which are harming the environment and thereby our ability to survive. The science fictional and fantasy qualities of these films give the opportunity to contemplate the politics of environmentalism from a different and imaginative perspective. This work echoes Dhami and Mahir's film but in a macro rather than a micro sense.
Part of the very nature of economy is the essence of 'give and take'. As such, George Barber's India Shouting Match, is an excellent study of aggression and boundaries. Filmed in India, pairs sit opposite each other and shout at each other as a game.
In Parking Lot Opportunity, by Nick Tobier, an under used space outside the artist's house is appropriated at certain times by him for other purposes. This film explores how it is possible to make something out of one system by converting it with another systematic tradition. The artist places deckchairs in the parking spaces and hangs up some bunting.
This study of a space was also apparent in Neil Wissink's Cipher , a piece about a derelict music hall in the East End of London. As such it is a metaphor for the memory of exchange; a time when the space was popular and served a vital purpose.
This economy of popularity of site could also be found in Nicky Coutts' Passing Place, where scenes from six very different feature films were re-enacted by local people at a crossroads in rural Northumberland. Each scene involved a crossroads in the original feature film, and the lack of professionalism of the actors becomes part of the quality of the work. How much it is possible to extend the economy of a film, with participation within conceptual limits, skillfull direction and camera work and a clever structure.
It is a shame that these works were available to view for only one week. It would be great if they were available to view online. The gallery context obviously allows for large scale projections, but with all the work that went into choosing the selection, it seems a pity not to reach a larger audience, and for a longer time.
Sarah Thompson 11.04.10
Gallery leaflet accompanying Multichannel