film art

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva, Glossolalia [Good Morning] (2014)

February 12, 2015

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“There’s a metaphor in there somewhere,” says Guardian critic Adrian Searle, as he contemplates this film. criticismism would like to pick up on those words: parrot fashion, naturally.

But that is what Glossolalia makes me think of: art criticism, mimicry and even plagiarism. To look at reviews for this pair of Portuguese artists certain phrases do the rounds.

Pataphysics, haunting, the limits of reason, the uncanny, slow-mo; the observations loop in and out of various publications. They make this show appear like a dazzling macaw stuck in a cage.

And yet precise words might not matter. Perhaps the babble alone should hold our attention.  Glossolalia does after all cite the religious phenomena of speaking in tongues.

In which case, it is the rhythm to which we should attend. Searle has a rhythm in which adjectives pile up and sentences spill over, which is of course fine. It’s nothing if not distinctive.

However, the rhythm of this film Gusmão + Paiva is a magisterial throb, with a silent pounding effect as the caged bird takes flight. No, there is no sound. We take on trust, this parrot’s gift of speech.

There is always something out of control about the tongue of a psittacine. Whether overwhelmed or underwhelmed the same could be said of an art writer. We feel compelled to speak.

In many cases, what comes out is a reconfigured press release, or a half remembered curator’s talk, or even that notorious form of glossolalia known as International Art Speak.

One might also parrot other critics. Interview magazine reveals that the artists film at 3,000 frames per second to give a weirdly crisp result when slowed down to 24. Now I’ve revealed it too.

Seeing is believing, even if hearing cannot be. Our title suggests that if we could hear this pretty boy, he would bid us Good Morning. The bright feathers speak. The image is a vocal one.

João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva: Papagaia can be seen at Camden Arts Centre until 29 March 2015. Meanwhile, here’s a topical story about a parrot.

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