Exhibition dates: 29 February - 19 April 2008
"The battle for the mind... will be fought in the video arena:
Each of the artists here each test our capacity to suspend disbelief in unerring actions and events. In each work, it is as though the world has been reversed or turned inside out, through a slight of hand; or else that our memories are being reconfigured. Each artist here uses digital video to create uncanny illusions and to mesmerise us. Although unlike with conventional cinema, the works are not intended to create 'illusions' as such - none of the scenarios are doctored or faked - but each captures our imagination in order to reorder our impressions and ideas. If the film 'Videodrome' proposed that every citizen was consuming ever greater numbers of images, of greater sensory demands, the artists might be said to offer other tentative conclusions. Rather than seeming to be controlled by the malign influence of the mass media, the artists reclaim technology to offer new ways of looking at the world.
Are these the memories of the near future? A leap into the void? Or a glimpse into the origin of the universe? Katy Woods' short video 'Adios' confuses past, present and future: here, memory and imagination are fused. Woods' work is a sequence of found images, where the subjects are family photographs the artist discovered lying on a street in New York. A panoply of conventionally 'picturesque' locations - holiday destinations across Europe and the Americas in the 1950s and 1960s - fade from white-out to focus. The beguiling simplicity of her treatment of the images, where the subjects become clear 'in a flash' - belies the poignancy of the work. Initially seemingly safely in the past, the images might also suggest an alarming future. The flashes of white light can appear as though a 'Big Bang' of a world brought into being; or else the sight of cities exposed to nuclear blasts and the end of civilization. Alternatively, the confusion of timeframes can imply that we are witnessing the last thoughts of a dying man - his lifetime's memories of travel flickering past his eyes and condensed into a single minute. The fade into sight implies each thought is difficult to dredge up from memory to consciousness, requiring a test of will to recall and focus.
'Adios, arrivederci, au revoir,
auf Wiedersehen' 2005
"After all, there is nothing real outside our perception of reality, is there?"
Justine Pearsall notes about study of synchronized swimmers in action that "when examining the idea of performance it is often the 'flip side' or backstage moments which are most revealing. The incredible strength that goes into synchronized swimming is masked by the perfect smile."
Pearsall continues: 'Clip Test' examines a particular moment when the performer is actually turning away from the audience, in a world of their own. We become aware, gradually, that the swimmers are projecting to an audience other than ourselves." We are left without a glimpse of the 'real' audience, and indeed are left asking where the cameraman is located; and even why we cannot see the bubbles of their breath.
'Clip Test' 2005
Duration: 7:55 minutes
"We live in overstimulated times...Have you been hallucinating lately?"
From 'Videodrome', 1983
Glasgow-based Anthony Schrag examines what he calls " 'the body intelligent' - the body as an object which is understood as a phenomenon before it can be grasped intellectually." Schrag decribes his intentions as to stretch and distort "people's standard physical experience of the world", by performing seemingly implausible actions.
Schrag performs actions that are universal, simple, basic tasks such as walking up stairs, or climbing a ladder or a tree. However, Schrag makes small changes to such actions that throw our perception of the world into question. Walking upsidedown a set of steel stairs requires nerve, as well as strength; Schrag's question is, though, what the limits of our capacity to suspend disbelief are as viewers, rather than what the limits of his own physical agility are. Such essays in testing the viewer, and in testing oneself as an artist by undertaking banal tasks recall the pioneering video works and performances of Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci. Though Schrag's work is very much akin to the athletic explorations of the cities' spaces by 'urban climbers' and 'freerunners'.
'Stairs, Ladder, Tree' 2005
Duration: 4:00 minutes