Category Archives: film installation

Amanda Beech, Final Machine (2013)

Amanda Beech

Left-leaning liberals from middle class homes should hate the discourse which runs through Final Machine by Amanda Beech. Instead it could give them a masochistic thrill.

The action runs fast, the soundtrack faster. This is punctuated by gunshots, not always easy or even possible to follow the arguments. But you catch enough to get the gist.

Here is a celebration of black ops. There is a justification of real politik. The American drawl adds to the flavour of tooled up expediency. Everything we know is wrong, in the world of this piece at least.

But no one should be surprised if we have had to leave some of our humanistic tendencies at the door of LGP. The script, for there is a lengthy one, comes in part from CIA training lectures.

And it’s been sliced together with the text of a book by philosopher Louis Althusser. So they might even trick you into signing up. Come for the Marxist theory; stay for the right wing coups.

Visually the piece is just as enticing/compelling. It unfolds on three consecutive screens: red, amber, green, just as if arranged to programme us to GO.

Because you will see things you won’t forget: RVs gathering to sinister purpose in the Mojave desert, modernist architecture lost in unspecified jungle, a highway running through nocturnal Miami.

The impression of spy craft is enhanced by the visual motif of the moving circle behind which the action unfolds. You half expect a corrupt, brutally pragmatic Bond to appear with revolver in hand.

He doesn’t but the piece goes on. The bullet reports are exhilarating: perhaps not meant for us, at least not yet. Movie goers will side with anyone, given enough aural popcorn and visual punch.

Final Machine can be seen at Lanchester Gallery Projects, Coventry, until 31 March. See gallery website for more details.

circa69, What was wood will be glass (2012)

This is not a simple work but it is easy to enjoy. It is easy to enjoy if your idea of fun is lying back in bed listening to breakbeats and watching a movie on the ceiling.

The footage shows scrambled data on a VDU, followed by a delapidated caravan in a clearing with a burning wheelchair alongside. Hard to make sense of, but visceral.

And when the bass drops, you feel yourself coming up as if on drugs. With speakers on the bed posts the vibrations shake the whole bed. I did this twice for another legal hit.

But circa69’s installation does funny things to your guts before you even follow the printed instructions to lie back on the squalid looking mattress.

A wall is covered in children’s drawings and somehow these are not sweet, but owing to their repetitive quality also somewhat creepy. They have run amok.

Then there is the wheelchair, present here as a sculpture too, destroyed by fire and sitting redundant amidst clods of earth. It is hard not to believe something terrible has happened here.

The brain struggles to construct a narrative around these elements: who occupied the chair?; did the children start the fire?; who lives in the caravan?

Half of the sense of danger here comes from the unknowability of these things. But thanks to the visual, aural and tactile impact, you really feel the backstory matters.

So you are left with radical doubt. It is tempting to say if David Lynch made art it would be art like this. But of course the film director does make art and it looks like this.

This work is part of the show Invisible Bridges at Phoenix, Brighton. Run ends Sunday 12 August. See gallery website for opening times and directions and check out more work by circa69 here.

Linda Remahl, Mien (2012)

Peeping through holes at ladies dancing is not the main prospect which comes to mind when you plan a gallery visit. And to see Remahl’s work, men will have to stoop.

But your sense of decorum is just about preserved when you realise that this peephole only features some arty, black and white, jump cut choreography: fully clothed.

The headphones are a lot more comfortable (and fill your head with some reassuring gypsy folk rather than, thankfully, a wakka chikka porno groove).

Mien is a response to the poetry of Galician writer Xelis de Toro, whose book in translation, Invisible Bridges, has inspired an entire exhibition here in Brighton.

So Remahl’s work reminds us that good writing may be seen as dancing with the pen. And the pen is surely not merely a pen, anymore than a cigar is just a cigar.

But the apparent frivolity of dance is a stumbling block for serious poetry or prose, like the stance of anarchist Emma Goldman: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

And what if there is an element of sleaze about all dance, ergo about all writing? That might explain why the famous 1913 performance of Rites of Spring degenerated into a riot.

No one likes to be confronted with their voyeurism, least of all the grand bourgeois of pre-War Paris. They would recognise Remahl’s work for what it is, a gentle scandal of sorts.

The Book of Invisible Bridges can be seen at Phoenix, Brighton, until August 14 2012. See gallery website for opening times, directions and full programme of supporting activity.

Christian Jankowski, Casting Jesus (2011)

As with any 21st century talent contest, the three judges in Casting Jesus are impatient, cutting and at times cynical. They praise as well, of course, but not always with great sincerity.

But unlike the panels we know from primetime TV, these worldly starmakers are a Vatican priest, a Vatican newspaper art critic, and a representative of the Italian Bishop Conference.

Their snarky attitudes are thrown into relief by the purity which the 13 contestants are doing their best to exude. After all, the contestants are trying out for the role of Jesus.

The studio setting is an 8th century hospital complex in Rome. A crucifixion can be seen on the wall. It is quite a sober place.

But the search for Jesus is funny. Contestants overact, stagger under the weight of their cross or drop to their knees in a moment of inner turmoil.

One soulful, serious man comes out the winner. And the judges tell him to lighten up. It seems a pity he really has no powers. Perhaps that is the pity of religion in general.

No film, stage play or hit single results from this process. And as the winner is announced part of the film crew comes into view, so the second coming has been a media event.

Or an art event. Because casting jesus is an artistic pursuit as old as Western art. Negotiating with clergical clients was also once, likewise, something of the essence of painting.

Jankowski has brought this process out of the shadows and into the light. It reveals how art and film still matter to the Catholic church. But suggests television would serve them better.

Casting Jesus can be seen at Lisson Gallery until October 1 2011. See gallery webiste for more details.

Hala Elkoussy, Al-Khawaga and Johnny Stories (2011)

A film in the back room tells the story of Sein, who seems to be in perpetual flight around the city of Cairo. In piecing together her story, the artist may also be piecing together ours.

Like Sein, we find ourselves lost in the city or at least the shop at 87 Sandgate Road, in which the memories pile up on the wall. In places the postcards, adverts and photos are ten deep.

The colonial past is everywhere: in adverts for stationers and soap, in baroque architectural flourishes, in notices for travel agencies selling us the pyramids.

Egypt has just had a revolution, but this was not its first. It was not even its second. But with each convulsion of revolt, the country tries to move away from British or Western influence.

The 1,000 killed in Tahrir Square might not have even been there were it not to mark so-called Black Saturday, and the 1952 murder of 50 Egyptian police by our occupying forces.

Given the amount of blood shed during the Arab Spring so far, it is embarrassing to look from the walls to the collection of books which Elkoussy has laid out on a central table.

Thrillers and travel yarns tracked down on Ebay and via the British Library catalogue remind us that Egypt has long been considered a playground by the West, albeit a mysterious one.

So her installation implicates. If you’ve ever enjoyed a film about mummies or a visit to the British Museum, there are mirrors on the wall in which you see yourself.

The surrounding ephemera points to at least 1,001 stories in this Arabic city. And it may come as a surprise to find how many of them involve Johnny, in other words you or me.

This work can be seen at Folkestone Triennial until September 25 2011. See organisers’ website for more details. And read my interview with Hala Elkoussy here.

Kutluğ Ataman, Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Mayhem (2011)

Kutluğ Ataman has got into the spirit of the Brighton Festival with a carnivalesque metaphor for the recent turmoil in the Arab world: a waterfall which defies gravity.

(This reading of Mayhem needs its full context, a series named after a region encompassing Iraq, Iran and Syria. And nearby here is another piece (Su) in which Islam is a more explicit theme.)

But the relative safety of an art space in the West, gives us some distance from this drama. Like a television with the sound down, Ataman’s film cools off the spectacle of unrest.

Indeed water is used often in Islamic architecture for this very purpose: to keep occupants cool. Three of the channels are projected onto the floor like pools in a mosque.

In a visual sense, this is a monumental feat of plumbing. The work offers a strong contrast with the vast disused space of the Old Municipal Market and its dusty concrete floors.

And at the risk of wearing out his name, Duchamp did once say that plumbing was the difference between sculpture and architecture. His fountain and Ataman’s both play with that distinction.

But only a sculptural film installation could harness the power of the Iguazu Falls. This wild South American region is also called Mesopotamia. But which one is the newer world?

The Old Municipal Market is on Circus Street, Brighton, and the show runs until 29 May 2011. It’s organised by Lighthouse. See their website for more details.