Tag Archives: conflict

Bedwyr Williams, Strafed (2012)

strafed

Strafing is the military practice of attacking ground targets from low-flying aircraft using aircraft-mounted automatic weapons ranging from machine guns to auto cannons or rotary cannons.”

Armed with this knowledge, if not this hardware, we can safely say that Williams’ picnic suite appears to be the worse for an encounter with an airborne machine gun. In an English garden.

This piece can now be seen in the garage of a semi detached house on the fringes of Luton. Were it not for the swiss cheese look, this table and chairs would invite you to sit down for a lemonade.

But your aspirations have been punctured 1001 times with a drill bit (I would guess 8mm). A pair of cheerful sunseekers here would have been riddled with lead and each sprung a hundred leaks.

Such violence is out of proportion to a harmless pretension: the Great British pursuit of fresh air, conspicuous ownership of a small lawn, and proximity to the prize begonias. Or is the strike justified?

How many wars have been fought on behalf of people in suburban gardens, who enjoy peace and quiet, even as young combatants fall and families much like theirs become collateral damage?

Something about these stackable white chairs enrages artists. In 1990, it was Damien Hirst who called down a plague upon our twee seasonal dining arrangements, and I wrote about it here.

Of course, the 90s were innocent times. No one could foresee the creeping outbreak of a long war in which our guns, our planes, and even our sanctions would bring so much death to the Gulf.

That said, this mise-en-scène reads like friendly fire, a trigger happy over-reaction by a Spitfire ace. The destruction wrought in Strafed is out of time, out of place, out of hand.

You might ask: how could the neighbours have been so unlucky? And you might reflect: I could be next. After all, we are living through the ultimate SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fucked Up).

Strafed could be seen in Sunridge Avenue Projects, Luton, as one of 11 works on show in the parental home of artist Dominic from Luton. It runs until June 4, by appointment.

Omer Fast, Continuity (2012)

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It would be difficult to deliver a spoiler for Continuity. Omer Fast’s looping 40 minute film has no clear narrative arc and offers few clues about the mystery at its core.

All we know is that the same middle-aged German couple pick up three different servicemen from a rural rail station, and take him home for a spot of psychodrama.

It could be they are call boys. It could be a case of sliding doors. It could be Brechtian exposition. Or it could be that the entire episode is the product of a bereaved mother’s fevered mind.

What’s really compelling about the film is that, despite the uniforms, there is difference within this repetition. Youth is one of the only things these soldiers have in common.

Their reunions are pretty intense affairs. The couple have license to touch, chide and even climb into bed with these young men (the mother). In fact the whole set up is uncomfortably oedipal.

You could write it off as kinky middle class role play, were it not that the ‘returning soldiers’ bring genuine trauma and a cast of unwanted ghosts back to this bourgeois home.

The couple cannot escape the realities of war. It seems they try to drive away from the conflict. But they find a camel, and worse, in the middle of their local forest.

Fast’s film is full of hallucinations, along with the doubling effect which comes from an actors playing actors. The war for this artist appears to be an enduring source of strangeness. With no resolution.

Continuity can be seen at Artes Mundi 6 until 22 February 2015.