Today I went to the Stephen Friedman Gallery to see work by the four artists shortlisted for the Dazed & Confused Emerging Artists Award – one of whom is Laura Buckley.
Buckley is showing a new installation, KZN, in which a video loop is projected through a suspended and rotating hexagonal prism. As it spins, the prism reflects fragments of the video image around the room while at the same time casting a heavy geometric shadow over the main projection image. The video appears to be shot on a hand-held camera as the artist walks through domestic gardens and industrial landscapes. She explores patterns of light and shade in tree canopies and on tarmac pathways. Obscured glass windows abstract objects into hazy, honey-coloured shapes.
The picture is constantly being redefined, cut-up, repeated and eclipsed by the Perspex prism, which has quite a weighty presence in the gallery space. No attempt is made to hide the apparatus of Buckley’s experiment (the huge installation projector, the large wooden plinth, the chunky speaker), rather our attention seems deliberately drawn to it, to her process of investigation and play.
Snippets of children’s voices filter through the electronic sounds from the speaker; a child’s hand appears in the video to spin a metal object for the camera. Full of primary colours and dancing shapes, the work is like an exploded computer game, a digital mobile.
Secondary reflections and refractions bounce off the hanging prism and travel around the room. I’m reminded of Peter Campus’s closed circuit camera installations. But unlike Campus’s works, interaction with the apparatus is not invited. In fact it wasn’t easy to approach the prism at all, the light was blindingly bright. Better I found to sit down on the floor and look up, as if from a child’s perspective in fact, at the kaleidoscope above and around me.
(I remember the children’s voices that drifted into my audio recordings in the garden, and think about what effect they have on the imagery.)
I was excited to discover that the winning artist Peter Ainsworth’s mysterious, beautiful photographs were shot in his father’s garden in London. In his introduction to the project he describes the domestic garden as being a ‘controlled and contrived space, one that often has ambiguous states.’ He refers to Tate’s 2004 exhibition The Art of the Garden, which unfortunately I didn’t see. There is some archived text on their website though, which is interesting to read:
“With an increasingly concentrated urban population, many people have become more distanced from nature, and a private garden space is an ever more precious asset. The idea of the garden remains strong in the popular consciousness, but for many it is precisely this – an idea.
The garden’s metaphorical associations grow more ambiguous and more extreme. For many contemporary artists it is still a site for reverie and imaginative potential, but it also stands for a lost world, a place that is neglected, interfered with and under threat.
To some, the garden reveals in microcosm what has happened to nature as a whole; controlled, cultivated, and encroached. The contemporary garden is one of extremes, where much is imagined and idealized, and imperfections and contrivances are celebrated: still perhaps an ‘arcadia’, if an unlikely one.”
This evening I did some projection tests with a few mounted slides. As soon as I switched the projectors on, the difference between the film images and my digitized scans became hugely apparent – the colours have that lovely, warm tint that had been ‘corrected’ by the computer, the picture is speckled by dust and hairs caught on the lens, textures of the wall merge with and become part of the photograph. And that amazing moment when the projector is turned on or off, the image slowly emerging or dissolving away into nothing.
I tried overlaying two slides from adjacent projectors, exploring the resulting patterns and double exposures. By moving my hand across one or other of the lenses I control how much of the image shines through. This might be an interesting way to generate animation sequences…