Tate Liverpool

Take a Deep Breath is a two-channel 30 minute video projection in the last room of gallery 4. Two screens are presented adjacent to each other; one placed further away, showing two differing perspectives of the same scene. They both depict the same scene but are shot from different angles. This causes the viewer to double-take, questioning the reality that is being portrayed to us. The role of the cameras lens as one perspective from a single eye is undermined, and instead the all-seeing author’s eye is constantly shifted between two perspectives.

This piece is built up of layers of narrative, a narrative within a narrative. The use of a talking head is authoritative and persuasive and leads us into the next shot which is a reconstruction. The man talking is represented by a different actor who enters a shop after an explosion has occurred. As the talking head becomes a voiceover to the next scene we become aware of the premeditated techniques employed for the shot. The preconceived non-diegetic use of the talking head becomes diegetic as a parody of the medium itself. The plot begins to hint at an encompassing narrative before stealing it away with ‘CUT’, instantly cutting us loose from a reality we were previously secure with going against the principles used in television and film.

The video appears to have been shot as though it is aware of itself being a fictional story. Fast challenges the conventions of narrative, and the ethos that a character should only know things that are revealed to them during the story; here the characters are aware of being characters and also appear to know more than they should. This meta-fictive aspect is revealed to us continually throughout the video adding yet more dimensions to the possible realities of the piece. As we begin to realize the manipulation and fabrication of the work, also having abandoned our suspension of disbelief, we begin to recalculate plots by unweaving and us to look again.

The continual layerings of realities in the video’s plot mean that we are never aware of a resolution to the story or one ultimate reality. The work renders our expectation for the completion and explanation of a narrative suspended, and instead coils round into itself in an Orbouros-like motif appearing to never really end. As it is on a loop, the moment you walked into a room dictates the moment you walk out, thus allowing the viewer to decide a resolution to the story and figure out which bit of footage is the all-seeing eye.

Historical and contemporary techniques of recording are appropriated with irony and humor. The camera records the frozen stances of the actors in real time, which emulates methods used in theatre, and still frames in film and television. The script references art, documentary, news, and film using melodrama and slapstick humour to address how we assess the barrage of images in media today.

The spanning of genres disrupts the narrative and unsettles the spectator; these abrupt cuts shake us out of one reality and into another. The explicit use of various media devices jolts viewer out of the impressionable and submissive states when watching TV, and the suspension of disbelief when watching films; this alerts us to the filmic forgery being constructed and entices us to reexamine and reassess what we consider to be fact or fiction. In this case the passive viewer becomes the active inspector of a motion-picture puzzle across two screens. This montage of references to various genres advocate media critique with a political undertone, especially in regards to the representation of people in western society and foreign cultures.

The work explores the way in which we attach labels to people in order to assume who they are. The ways the cast represent genuine people in society challenge our preconceptions and prejudices towards they are exploited in the media. The first bomber is young and middle-eastern, and the second is old and white. Apart from being a current issue and something frequently reported in the news, the use of a suicide bomber in the story is ambiguous. The artist’s attitude towards the suicide bomber is unclear, the actor playing the director shows compassion for the man who plays the original bomber and tries to help him. This questions our prejudices towards suicide bombers using the approach of television drama and documentary in contrast to the way they are presented in news media.

Our attempt to understand each scene interrupts our need to fathom events chronologically in the video. Here an event is exploited as something which has no fixed origin in time but shifts with uncertainty to question the moment in which a fact becomes a document. The devices drawn upon deliver a layered story that reaches no definite conclusion. Disillusionment ends each scene as a new reality is introduced, creating a Russian nested doll effect, a story within a story. The placing of realities one inside the other to emulate this all-seeing eye symptomatic of a wider perspective that is infinitely repetitious.

It is this aspect which we hold onto as the viewer to try and determine where the story started and seek out its original thread. Our effort to make sense of time within the work is futile as the use of a narrative that never ends subverts the conventions of storytelling and offers us no conclusion. As an audience we try to locate the encompassing reality and the real time of the story, and to pinpoint the main eye of the camera.

In an information age where various media vie for our attention the fast pace of the work ensnares us immediately to concentrate on a narrative we assume is about to reach a conclusion. These devices dislocate and displace our understanding of the story line so far; from the cinematic and fictional motif to the style of reality TV they interrupt our desire and attempt to find a resolution in the narrative in this multilayered endless saga.