Jerwood Space Gallery until 27th August
This gallery has a reputation for fostering young talented moving image artists. The intellectually and visually thrilling film by Alice May Williams shown here in April 2016 was a delight to experience. None of the works in this Jerwood Solo Presentations show quite captures the alchemy of concept, text, music and image sparking off each other in Williams film but they were all interesting in their own right.
Rachel Pimm, like many video artists who graduate from Goldsmiths, appreciates the value of setting a video artwork in a sympathetic installation. She creates a spa atmosphere with a range of elements including an ambient soundtrack and a dreamy blue and green lightbox. In contrast she plays entertainingly with black and white circles and spheres in her HD video, Macrobeads. The appeal of the illusion of white dots that appear when a shiny black sphere is illuminated is widely used. Coincidentally this effect can be seen in one of Mona Hatoum’s sculptures currently on show at the Tate Modern. Although the images of carpets of black spheres on water reference oil and plastic pollution, the political implications are kept rather vague. Lacking a commentary, the film felt a bit lacking in bite, but her restrained blue/ green and black/ white contrasts indicate that she has a sure feel for the symbolic power of colour.
Luke Fowler has set a high bar for me for documentary art films as he always delivers a social critique through an intriguing visual aesthetic. Lucy Parker’s film Apologies has a strong political sensibility but uses the more conventional form of recording discussions and speeches to examine the legal and personal ramifications of the blacklisting of workers in the construction industry. The cavalier way that corporate industry prioritises profit over workers rights by using devious and immoral practices is an under-publicised scandal that deserves to be exposed. Sadly by screening this work in a gallery only a tiny audience will get to see it. I only hope it gives the project the momentum needed to propel the planned full-length film into widespread distribution.
The exhibition notes slightly overegg the “artist filmmaker” tag by referring to Parker’s “construction of scenarios for exchanges to play out” Surely this is standard documentary practice for filmmakers that do not claim the “artist” tag . It would have been a different film but the obvious missing scenario is a meeting of the construction industry bosses with the workers whose lives have been blighted. They owe a personal rather than a legal apology to them. The “artistic” input in this film is mainly seen in the careful positioning and the calm, unfussy shooting of the blacklisted union activists and law students discussing the case in a small raked university lecture theatre. I was moved by the contrast between the controlled formal atmosphere of the discussion and the raw emotion bubbling under the surface and there was some useful ventilation of the problems of corporate apologies .
I love the easy conviviality and sudden bursts of energy that you get in amateur choir rehearsals. Katie Schwab in clearly taken by this as well as it provides an evocative soundtrack to her video Covers. It does not capitalise on the singers’ energy but focuses instead on their shoes and clothing, peripheral elements in the process of vocal projection. The impact of this work was lessened further by being poorly installed on a tiny monitor which irritatingly gives a clear reflection of the viewers. The main elements of her presentation are tasteful furniture and textiles, so the video itself seemed like a bit of an afterthought.
Overall a show worth seeing and I look forward to the future work of these artists.