Writing

Some of my exhibition reviews for the Visual Artists’ News Sheet are included in this section. There is also a longer piece related to the moving image works of Colin Martin.

Caoimhe_Kilfeather,'This Attentive Place'

Caoimhe Kilfeather

‘This Attentive Place’
Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin
20 June – 20 August 2014

Caoimhe Kilfeather seems interested in the space around objects as much as the objects themselves. In her recent exhibition a diaphanous blue screen (made from overlapping sheets of oiled and pigmented paper) reshaped the gallery’s coordinates and provided an atmospheric setting for a number of seemingly related though rather mysterious artifacts.

Varying between dark and lighter shades, the wall of suspended sheets, titled The Rigid Thing, The Moving Act, led the viewer towards an opening at its farthest end and continued inside to form a right angled enclosure. The translucent drapes made a softly glowing perimeter, filtering the exterior brightness, and casting the exhibition’s contents within a square of melancholy light.

Broodily dominating the inner sanctum, a foursome of dyed and cast concrete uprights faced each other in secret conference. Bound at their centre by thin bands of shiny brass, the tall slabs seemed vaguely megalithic, like a dark tomb or hearth, a shelter for transformations of one kind or another. The title of the work, A Shade, suggested another reading, that the forms were solidified shadows, negative matter cast from an absense of light (and what better material than concrete to describe this metamorphosis).

The Kind Thought That Sent Them There was positioned towards the opposite corner of the reconfigured room. Four bronze forms rested on a pale wooden table. The low table was drop-leafed, one up and one down. The irregular surfaces of the round forms had been cast from something wrapped or woven, and there was a single small opening in each. They looked like the nests of weaverbirds. Or perhaps they were maceheads, waiting for the armourer to fix their wooden shafts.

A sculpture doesn’t have to look like something else, but it’s difficult to escape comparisons, especially when we’re lead towards them. An accompanying text empasised Kilfeather’s interest in the place of the exhibition, and her attempts to redefine it, from “an ostensibly public, to a more private and subjective setting”. (1) We are also told her that works reference “domesticity and habitation”. (2) If that’s correct then my preceding comments about birds’ nests and the transformative hearth seem apt. On the other hand my observations about shadows and medieval weaponry are probably way off the mark. The artist seems to promote ambiguity, exploring contradictions between her materials and her forms, and inviting subjective responses to a complex grammar of making and allusion. It’s difficult to pin Kilfeather’s work down to a specific reading, and that is part of its strength.

The use of cryptic titles is another oblique strategy. Two framed black and white photographs, At The End of His Nature (1) and (2) depict the same subject – a paved and enclosed courtyard – from the same point of view: a room leading out to the open area. If the gallery space is a reconfigured domicile (as the exhibition text suggests) then perhaps it extends to the images of exterior space framed on the wall. The image of the courtyard garden is a kind of joke, a self-consciously unconvincing trompe-l’oeil. Or does At The End of His Nature imply something else? Are the closed doors in the second photograph a reference to death? Kilfeather’s bookish titles (Emily Dickinson comes to mind) are teasing and suggestive. Perhaps I was led up the wrong garden path?

Adjusting to the blue-stained gloam I noticed that cladding had been removed from the room’s structural columns and that the concrete ceiling was painted a dark grey. Raw but honest, the space seemed undressed of anything superfluous. Here and there the stripped back austerity was relieved by warmer lights directed toward the walls. As well as the two photographs, two untitled works were picked out in this way. A column of uniformly pale slip cast ceramic tiles was slotted together by way of opposing lips at the top and bottom. Viewed from the side the flat shapes had a simple interlocked elegance. From the front they became an ironed-out Brancusi, a potentially endless column of starched rhomboids.

Kilfeather’s work is skillfully made and emphatically material, and at the same time strangely allusive. Self-possessed, its presence feels slightly withdrawn, as though holding itself back from some fuller possibility. Five rectangles of woven wire were placed just beyond the blue confines. Their metallic lustre seemed internal, as though charged with the gentle current running through all of this work, a poetic energy of reticence and release.

“Inhabited space transcends geometrical space”, Gaston Bachelard wrote, reminding us that a space’s true coordinates are found in subjective experience. (3) While ‘This Attentive Place’ felt uniquely intimate, the title seemed to refer to the common experience of all those who have visited or worked in the gallery. Carried in memory – habitations occur there as much as anywhere else – this exhibition’s ‘legacy of attention’ will be extended in many memories, no doubt, over time.

JG – August 2014

Notes
1. TBG+S exhibition statement
2. Ibid
3. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 1958

Richard Gilligan 'Munich, Germany'

Richard Gilligan

‘DIY’ 
The Copper House Gallery 
13 March–3 April 2014

Secluded down a quiet laneway off Synge Street, the ‘Copper House’ is wrapped in thin sheets of the eponymous metal, an eccentric cladding for an otherwise nondescript industrial block. The two-storey structure houses a photographic studio and digital printing service with a ground floor gallery offering a showcase for the company’s output. This immaculate exhibition space provides a pristine air for the 16 colour photographs that make up Richard Gilligan’s exhibition, ‘DIY’.

Gilligan is a commercial photographer who also pursues more personal projects. A skateboarder, he has travelled widely in Europe and America photographing skateboarders and the unofficial, cobbled together skateparks they build. The small (42.5x51cm) and medium (79x96cm) sized photographs are simply mounted and framed without glass. The exhibition combines images of the gerry-built parks themselves (including an occasional skater or two) and shots of individual skaters taken in or around these locations. There is little or no action as such, and contrary to expectation, barely a single skateboard in evidence.

A spirit of gung-ho optimism may be synonymous with ‘DIY’ but in Gilligan’s exhibition title the term becomes more nuanced. His portraits of lone figures and isolated parks suggest that doing it yourself may also mean doing it by yourself, when you set yourself apart from the conventions that govern elsewhere. Munich, Germany depicts a hooded figure in the shadows of a darkened space. Standing pensively in a shaft of light he’s like a backstage actor waiting for his cue. In New Orleans, USA a young boy leans forward with arms on hips. He seems oblivious to his surroundings, his downward gaze ignoring the blurry edifice behind him and the weedy verge delineating his concrete patch.

All the photographs are titled after their locations, Brooklyn, USA, Liverpool, UK, and so on. But despite these varied locales the pictures reveal a common topography, a similar landscape of dead-ends, underpasses, and vacant lots, a sort of Esperanto hinterland where the useful and the useless intersect.

In Warsaw, Poland a cultivated slope sweeps down to a rectangle of grey concrete, marked here and there by low platforms and ramps. A group of tiny figures is dwarfed by a row of tower blocks behind, standing like sentinels with so many eyes. The light is eerily even, lending everything an equal status under the cloudy expanse above. I was reminded of Pieter Bruegel’s painting, Hunters in the Snow, and how viewed from an elevated vantage point his silhouetted ice-skaters draw your eye into the distant valley and a sense of the intimate life there. Gilligan’s skateboarders seem more remote, frozen by the camera on the edge of an indifferent metropolis.

The photographer’s view is oblique, taking in tangential spaces and the incidental moments around events. In Philadelphia, USA two young women sit cross-legged on a hard slope. Beside them a curve of blue concrete marks the rim of a skateboarding ‘bowl’. Though together, the women seem alone in their thoughts. There’s a darkness on the edge of town, or a twilight at least, an atmosphere of pensive separation hovering over the off-piste terrain. In the distance a road sign glows orange, lit by electricity or by the dying rays of the sun.

One of the pleasures of the exhibition is to see how the dips and pours of these temporary playgrounds can soften the hard edges of urban infrastructure. Gilligan notices how ramps can resemble natural features. In Memphis, USA the picture is dissected by a rain-soaked wall. Behind the wall a line of telegraph poles gives measure to the watery sky. In the open space in front there is a single white ramp, its undulating mass like a snowdrift melting into the ground.

Skateparks that colonize neglected space can themselves become neglected. In Derry, Northern Ireland a scrubby field is bordered by conifers and a broken fence. A wooden ramp appears abandoned in a gap between the trees. Whatever energy was here has now gone, the bucolic and the alcoholic comingled in a scrubland of discarded beer cans.

At the turn of the millennium Shaun Gladwell’s Storm Sequence (a slow-motion video of a skateboarder, himself, spinning on the edge of a rain-lashed pier) proved you could make art by combining boyhood enthusiasms with notions of the romantic sublime. The ‘street’ and its vernaculars are by no means strangers to art (and I’m not talking about Banksy) with photographers in particular frequently finding treasures there. Another millennial work, the sequence ‘Heads’ by the American photographer Philip-Lorca diCorcia, renders ordinary pedestrians monumental by ingenious lighting techniques. Gilligan’s photographs don’t have the dramatic impact of these examples, but they have something of their mixture of insouciance and conviction.

Serving as an anomaly in a set otherwise focused on the outside, a second image titled Munich, Germany shows a skatepark tucked inside a barnlike structure. A cropped view makes a powerful arrangement of black and brown interlocking shapes. An area of pale concrete scooped out from the surrounding level completes the abstract composition. The picture’s formal qualities made me think of George Braque, particularly his ‘Atelier’ paintings and their symbolic birds, locked into the painted surface but not bound to it. Already in a second edition, a handsome volume, also titled ‘DIY’, offers a fuller spectrum of these quietly engaging photographs.

JG – March 2014

 

Sabina McMahon Detail from Sabina McMahon’s ‘A Temple, A Bar, An Excavation and An Elephant Bone’

‘False Memory Syndrome’

Temple Bar Gallery, Dublin
5th September – 26th September 2013

In September 2013 ‘Temple Bar Gallery + Studios’ marked three decades of prominence in Dublin’s designated cultural quarter. The ground floor gallery is an accessible exhibition space, open to the busy street through its entirely glazed south facing façade. Four artists were invited to “imagine alternative histories” for TBG+S in response to their archives, with the results veiling the institutions literal and metaphorical ‘transparency’ in a number of complex scenarios. (1)

50 was a very mixed media installation by Alan Phelan. A sequence of tableaux consuming a large area of the exhibition space, 50 comprised the said number of energetically recycled motifs and in some cases original objects, from the loosely archived remnants of a series of fund-raising exhibitions called ‘Multiples’. (2) Wittily compiled and cross-referenced, these physical histories, arranged in composites and layers, offered potentially endless hours of archeological fun. More generous than irreverent, Phelan’s project also extended to the participation of others. Sarah Doherty, a recent graduate from DIT, contributed Found (2013) a soap carving that incidentally pointed backwards to an earlier soap piece by Jeanette Doyle. In reconsidering a lavender-infused eye-pillow by Sarah Pierce, the artist’s mother, Harriet Phelan, covered a black eye mask with hundreds of tiny shells.

Depicting wagons parked along cobbled streets, Michael Boran’s set of black and white photographs Far and Away, might have come from the National Photographic Archive just up the road in Meeting House Square. Dusted off images of old Temple Bar perhaps, a humdrum heritage before the cultural circus came to town? Then you notice the anachronisms, suspiciously modern looking crash barriers, passers-by decked out in modern gear. In fact the photographs were taken in 1991 when Temple Bar was dressed up as a film-set to resemble Boston in the 1890’s. Printed here for the first time, the photographs embody their own history, the gap of twenty-two years between the instant of capture and eventual release just one aspect of their peculiarly time-warping effect. In an area now synonymous with the creative interpretation of provenance, Boran’s archive brought to light a coalescence of the real and the fabricated, the before then, the then, and the now.

The real and the fabricated achieved a dry synthesis in A Temple, A Bar, An Excavation and An Elephant Bone. Sabina MacMahon cornered off an area of the gallery to display artifacts unearthed during an1993 excavation of the ground directly beneath the gallery space. A miscellany of objects arranged in back-to-back vitrines was clearly labeled and catalogued. Number 17, a ‘Fragment of terracotta’, number 16, an ‘Earthenware pot’. Accompanying descriptions varied from the fulsome to the pithy; the ornately decorated ‘Plate’ had a detailed back-story, while a neighboring lump of matter was simply, ‘Brick’. The style of MacMahon’s presentation rang true but tales of immolated elephants were less easy to swallow. This dichotomy of truth and fiction was exemplified by the cohabitation of the unlikely ‘Elephant Femur’ with the more prosaic ‘Potato’. Boiled, chipped or fried, the humble potato reminds us of the potential within the ostensibly mundane. An elephant could burn to death on Essex Street, proving that days, like the spud, are protean.

Sarah Pierce presented a video recording of a debate Artist or Superartist? hosted by the Temple Bar Gallery in 1998. Donning headphones in time to hear Campbell Bruce say, “The creative act is something that emerges, it is not something that is pre-ordained by words”, I found myself nodding along with the audience. In a debate fixated on language and its determining role in artistic opportunity, no one was cutting words any slack. 15 years later, with art practices increasingly under the aegis of the PhD, I wondered if words had eventually got the upper hand?

An opening night performance saw Pierce sitting before the monitor repeating the words of the participants (3). Her practice tends to flatten the temporal spaces between creative events and these overlaps, however precisely layered, benefit from unpredictable slippages. Repetition creates a space, not unlike the one between the shooting and printing of Boran’s photographs (or the spaces between truth and fiction, originality and copy, in the works of MacMahon and Phelan) for a third memory to emerge (4). This is less a false memory than a new register, a register that sits between the first instance and its reiteration. Recovering a multi-layered past, the exhibition, smartly curated by Rayne Booth, found lots of new spaces to look at.

JG – September 2013

1 Gallery Press Release
2 ‘Multiples’ (1998 – 2003) attempted to make art collecting more accessible while raising funds for TBG+S’. More than 150 artists took part.
3 I didn’t witness the performance. I’m told it was uncanny, weird, compelling.
4 Pierre Huyghe’s Third Memory (1999) is perhaps the best-known iteration of this idea.

Die Welt von Morgan

Gillian Fitzpatrick, ‘Die Welt von Morgen’ (Tomorrow’s World), The Return Gallery
Goethe Institut, Dublin, 8 May – 21 June 2013

Exhibitions in the Goethe Institut’s Return Gallery have the benefit of a beautifully compact and architecturally distinctive space; and being part of a lineage of frequently interesting artistic projects guided over the years by several distinctive curatorial voices.

Gillian Fitzpatrick’s exhibition (curated by Jonathan Carroll) takes a retrospective look at the influential German band Kraftwerk, using a 1975 episode of Tomorrow’s World as her starting point. (1) Fitzpatrick is interested in the future from the perspective of the past and, in previous works like Dublin 8 Space Project, focused on the restaging of events associated with the early period of space exploration. Emerging from a music scene with its own cosmic affiliations, Kraftwerk provide a parallel fixation on explorative hardware, and a model in popular music that served as a template for much of what came after.

With its exclusively electronic sounds and radio-friendly song structures, Kraftwerk’s 1974 release, Autobahn transcended its origins in Krautrock and led to the Dusseldorf quartet’s first appearance on Top of the Pops. Not everyone at the BBC believed these ‘Mench Machines’ were fully human, and an incredulous DJ introduced the dapperly deadpan Ralf, Karl, Wolfgang and Florian with the words, “here comes data’s distant relatives”. (2) They were spotted, presumably, by the boffins at Tomorows World and soon became television’s favorite future-heads.

In The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym writes, “The twentieth century began with utopia and ended with nostalgia”. (3) Nostalgia, she suggests, is not just a harkening back to the past, but a yearning for a past that never was. Nostalgia is a superimposition of two images; a reconstruction of the past comprising of what we ‘know’ now over what we didn’t know back then.

Presented like a display of music archeology, Fitzpatrick’s rudimentary reconstructions of Kraftwerk’s ‘instruments’ conjures a time, ironically enough, when technology was still shaped like specific objects. Before touch became synonymous with ‘touch-screen’ even Kraftwerk’s pioneering drum-machines bore some resemblance to the stretched animal skins of their origin. The artist’s nattily handcrafted gizmos seem to return technology to a more primordial state.

Schlager 1 is made from polyurethane resin and plywood, a row of four wall-mounted discs recreating a quartet of vinyl records, while Drum-Machine – made from ‘Bellaroma’ coffee tins and foil covered knitting needles – is a neatly constructed assemblage of domestic parts. (4) These objects possess the simple charm of carefully made models from a playschool project; they are not faithful reproductions of technology but more like gestures to make it humble. A roughly made facsimile of a sine-wave monitor, Wave, looks like it was unearthed from a lunar bog. A Bakelite telephone, Kling Klang 1, is remade as an oversized clay sculpture. Its bulky demeanor resembles an item from a Flintstones souvenir shop rather than equipment from Kraftwerk’s onomatopoeically named recording studio. Fitzpatrick’s reconstructed past is childlike, an imaginary world supervised by a Dusseldorf hippy perhaps; one that recognises wonder in the humblest schuh-box.

A short video, Dummy Run, presented on a mini DVD player, shows a female figure (the artist) rehearsing some rudimentary robotics to the accompaniment of a stop-start version of Kraftwerk’s Showroom Dummies. Imitating the song’s promotional video, the DVD’s looming shadows also made me think about how much the famously unexpressive German band learned from German expressionist cinema. I thought of the 1920s film The Golem and, more obviously perhaps, of the ‘Maschinenmensch’ from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.

Part of the pleasure of Goethe Institut shows can be discovering artworks outside of the gallery space. The ground floor Reading Room contained a magazine rack with a re-imagined cover for the band’s 1978 album Die Mensch-Maschine. Kraftwerk’s albums were often re-titled to fit other languages and here it is given a rebaptism in Irish as An Duine Meaisin, with the artist herself in the guise of the red-shirted Kraftwerkers. I encountered a second telephone on the way to the basement loo. Fashioned in grey felt, Kling Klang 2 evokes the spirit of another famous Dusseldorf resident, Joseph Beuys. What might have happened had the shaman joined the robots in the Kling Klang laboratory? That’s a reimagining of the past I would dearly love to see.

JG – June 2013

1. The popular Tomorrow’s World was a program dedicated to identifying future trends and ran on the BBC from 1965 – 2003.
2. Twelve years later, Star Trek: The Next Generation, introduced an android character, Lieutenant Commander Data, who looked like he was auditioning for a role in a Kraftwerk tribute act.
3. Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia, Basic Books, 2002
4. Schlager means ‘hit’. More specifically, Schlager music refers to a form of queasily sentimental euro-pop.

Cine1 Spectral Range: notes on The Garden and other recent works by Colin Martin

A representation occurs when one thing stands in for another. Whether an arrangement of window boxes or a swathe of roped off countryside, a garden is a representation of nature, a tidied up facsimile of the so-called natural world. Visiting a garden is a bit like visiting a gallery or museum; everything on show reflects the imprimatur of a horticultural or curatorial hand. Gardens and art – the comparisons can be extended – share a tendency to express power (over materials, over domains) and attest our ability to make images we can occupy imaginatively or bodily or both. We like gardens, they adjoin where we live and our earliest memories are often rooted there. They are disciplined nature and we like a bit of discipline too.

Colin Martin’s recent video works are located in two essential movements; slow lateral shifts across zones of precise designation, and a gradual opening to light before returning again to darkness. A third movement, more complex and difficult to pin down, occurs in our own experience of the works, how they act on our corporeal selves, twisting the virtual and the real into ambiguous new formats.

Accessed through a series of tall openings in a rather sombre edifice of blackened wood, the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor’s garden (1) was enclosed within a structure of open ‘cloisters’ running the length of the four sides, two long, two short, of an elegantly proportioned outdoor room. The dark pavilion became a backdrop for the interior garden of flowers and light. The structure was oriented so there would always be sun on one side and shade on the other and sitting there on a beautiful summer’s afternoon it was easy to imagine how if it rained it would be beautiful too, the sloping rooves of the cloisters allowing the water pour evenly into the open space. Zumthor presented his enclosed garden as a place abstracted from the outside world, a place, “full of memory and time” (2)

Van Morrison evokes a spiritual garden through a prism of wet fields,

You wiped the teardrops from your eye in sorrow

And we watched the petals fall down to the ground”

 A garden that transforms, or witnesses a transformation,

And then one day you came back home

You were a creature all in rapture”

Softly guttural like a Belfast Don Corleone, Van’s alternately emphatic and whispering vocal is a hymn to “the youth of eternal summers”, ‘In The Garden’, is also a paean to light, he sings, “… your summery words … ignited me in daylight”. (3)

Colin Martin’s garden (4), like Zumthor’s, is framed in black, not by material but by an absence of light. The surrounding penumbra heightens the drama of the planted areas, its concentration of greenery made vivid by powerful location lamps. Banks of artificial light stand in for Van’s visionary daylight, the artifice completed by the on-screen appearance of the lighting apparatus itself. Devoid of mysticism – artificial lights don’t carry the spiritual cadence of the sun – the garden emerges from sleep, stunned, bleary eyed, coming gradually into view. A prolonged darkness is followed by a prick of light – the moon? – then slowly, as the camera tracks from right to left, we’re introduced to its brightened domain.

The tenebrous world identified in Martin’s short films – out of season, behind the scenes, or woken after dark ­– is a world already evoked in much of his earlier work as a painter and printmaker. In these works painted and graphic scenarios are filled with obscuring shadows and un-locatable tensions, a mood of pensive rest between the takes of larger events.

Video installations can be tricky. As viewers, we often find ourselves stumbling against each other, groping the walls, waiting for the iris to open just enough to avoid sitting on a strangers lap. This movement, from darkness to light, is a movement expressed in several of Martin’s video works, The Bridge, for example, and Cyclorama, both 2010. In each of these works a slow tempo is established and then drawn out of darkness, inexorably, towards the light, and towards a conclusion both prefigured and curiously elusive.

Standing in a darkened room between the two screens of The Bridge – literally cast at the centre of the action – we watch as the camera approaches from either side of a footbridge. Location lamps powered by a noisy generator illuminate the wooden structure and as the camera passes from one side to the other the volume increases and falls away. Unmoving between the two screens – we’re fixed in place by sound as much as by image – there is the odd sensation of being relocated. This sense of being caught up in the drama is different to our experience in the cinema where identification exists only in the mind. The Bridge seems to take us across a divide between our physical and psychological selves, and put us back down again at the same place where we started.

A feeling of being bound towards the inevitable occurs again in Cyclorama. The camera movement, imperceptible at first, traverses a gloom that reveals itself as a backstage area, the reverse side of the sound stage that gradually fills the screen. Moving in a semi-circle the camera imitates the form of the suspended ‘cyclorama’, a massive curtain backdrop to the empty stage area. Naked of the painted scenes that normally occupy its surface, the curtain becomes fore-grounded, a fabric normally reserved for illusions appearing concretely as itself. The journey across the empty stage concludes (if a looped video can be said to conclude) in a re-entry to the darkness behind the scenes.

This circling momentum, a kind of suspension in an expanded present, seems suited to the times. The idea of progress, withered in the searchlight of misdemeanor and financial ruin, has lost its previous cachet. The march of time (so proudly announced in the newsreel series of that name) has slowed down to a circling shuffle. Martin’s camera movements, their glacial time-code, share a pace with these larger arrangements.

Movement though, however paced, is unconditional; things are always on the move. In 24 hour Psycho Douglas Gordon slowed the master of suspense to a quotidian crawl, to ‘death 24 frames a second’ (5). At the conclusion of the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho, water and blood are seen spiraling through the plughole. In Douglas Gordon’s version (6) this ending (for Marion Crane, and of the film’s first act) is extended to several minutes. When time slows down, its tragic aspect seems more acute. Its pace may be diminished, but time, nonetheless, runs out.

Through Martin’s ongoing series of works called ‘Basic Spaces’ we gain access to places that are usually hidden. These spaces (a green-screen sound stage, a recycling centre, a pre-election count centre, a state archive) are filmed with a single tracking shot that moves steadily across the chosen location. The camera is an eye without a brain, (in French, the camera lens is an ‘objectiv’) scanning the contents of the ready-made mise-en-scene and revealing in the structure and layout of these functional spaces a kind of underlying syntax of cultural value and control.

With points along its axis equally weighted the scene of a tracking shot has no definitive view. It is an aspect extended in duration, time and the image rolled into one. Brian Henderson describes it thus, “A camera moves slowly, sideways to the scene it is filming. It tracks. But what is the result when its contents are projected on a screen? It is a band or ribbon of reality that slowly unfolds itself. It is a mural or scroll that unrolls before the viewer and rolls up after him” (7) When this ‘ribbon of reality’ is projected onto a screen, ‘reality’ appears to enter one side as it exits the other; the projected image simultaneously appears and disappears.

We rise and go to sleep, our daily round turning within a larger circle. The world appears and disappears on the axis of the earth. In Hegel’s lovely formulation, “… the rising of the sun … designs with one stroke the shape of the new world” (8). Coming back to The Garden we are introduced to a multiple of viewpoints and a more complex installation than the sparse format of earlier works. As the camera moves stealthily across the artificially lit terrain it uncovers a profusion that is normally shrouded. Plants stand to attention under a new scrutiny, and confused moths re-orientate their flight around the 2000-watt moons.

The screens of the installation are set up in a four-sided configuration, occupying the four sides of the exhibition space, mimicking the structure of the garden itself, and making it impossible to view everything at once. The stage-bright garden, as it arrives more fully into view, begins to fracture and mutate. Additional screens come to life – a red glow without definition, flowers in close-up, insects at their silent work ­– combining in a dramaturgy of forms. The apparatus of filming itself, a tri-pod, a camera bag, is joined centre stage by Kinoflos and HMIs, sources of illumination as apparent as the world they reveal.

Quick-fire editing, close-ups and wider views, come together in projected configurations with the continuing slow tracking shot, the camera moving unwaveringly along its metal rail, apparently indifferent to the chaos building around it. As each screen is illuminated its accompanying soundtrack can be heard, a building cacophony of rattles and hums, the noise from the lights and the generator seeming to mimic the sound – soft wings rapidly flapping – of a film-projector. Sustained in intensity, the crescendo eventually gives way as the camera’s slow passage is completed. Images and sounds withdraw, one by one, and go out. The garden is extinguished in the enveloping darkness.

JG – June 2012

Notes:

  1. The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion commission (2011) by Peter Zumthor included a planted garden designed by Dutch designer Piet Oudolf.
  2. Quoted in the galleries promotional booklet.
  3. In The Garden appears on Van Morrison’s album ‘No Guru, No Method, No Teacher’ (1986)
  4. The video footage was shot at night in the walled garden at ‘Airfield’, a house and working farm in Dundrum. Open to the public, Airfield has an avowed mission to “reconnect people and nature” http://www.airfield.ie
  5. ‘Death 24x a second’ (2006) is the title of Laura Mulvey’s book reflecting on tensions between the still frame and the moving image, and in particular on how death is inscribed into the stillness at the heart of film.
  6. Entering the cultural zeitgeist with its first screenings in Glascow and Berlin in 1994, Gordon’s film has also enjoyed a bout of fictional fame with its recent appearance in Don DeLillo’s Point Omega. A character describes it as “… like watching the universe die over a period of about seven billion years” p 47 Scribner, 2010)
  7. Brian Henderson, Toward a non-bourgeois camera style, in ‘Film Theory and Criticism’, Oxford University Press, 2004, p56
  8. Hegel refers to changing epochs but his formulation seems equally suited to the daily round. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’, Paris, 1947, p12