Ruth Waters first impressed me at the Goldsmiths MFA Degree show last year and so it was a major treat to see her recent video installation last month at Peer Gallery in Hoxton. It is a carefully crafted cautionary tale for the internet generation that can turn to a supportive global community of sufferers of the same phobia, no matter how obscure. The bulk of the film consists of a skype interview with the film’s increasingly distraught protagonist, known to us only as REDSKY66. This is intercut with clips of different types of vortices swirling into a vanishing point which provide a visual commentary as he struggles with his obsession with infinity and his acute fear of the eternity he will endure in the afterlife. This includes a hilarious clip from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures film of 1989 showing the heroes being sucked into deep space. I had never encountered apeirophobia before and Ruth astutely pinions the reason why digital natives might be particularly prone to this form of anxiety. REDSKY66 reaches a tipping point in his attempts to control his phobia when he becomes the epicentre of a twitterstorm triggered by his rash tweet trolling the teenage rape victim of a celebrity footballer which he later regrets.
He explains that his breakdown was triggered by the realisation that our digital lives have an immortality that our bodily lives do not possess. Eternity is a terrifying prospect if it means ruminating on our life’s bleakest moments as if on a continuous excruciating loop and this horror is amplified by the indelible nature of the internet record preserving our crass mistakes. Ruth makes an astute choice of collaborator as the performance of REDSKY66 is entirely credible and you are left wondering whether this is acting, role play or a real interview. Whatever it is, you are moved by his plight.
This concise, gripping and original narrative goes beyond the ubiquitous concerns over social media’s impact on personal reputations and instant celebrity and hints at the more murky, emerging uncertainties of our digital era. Having seen much incoherent and self-indulgent MI work recently this was a refreshingly simple yet profound experience having much in common with David Blandy’s excellent new video, The End of the World, which I will be reviewing in my next blogpost.