Autobiographical films from Beirut and Ellesmere Port

Mark Leckey’s autobiographical film at the Tate Modern, Dream English Kid (2015) 1969-1999, is delightful, endearing and intense, very like the Ellesmere Port born artist himself.

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Affect Bridge Age Regression, installation view. Photography by Mark Blower

In Leckey’s Tate Shots video he tags himself as an outsider with a “schizophrenic” approach (meaning detached and alienated rather than psychotically delusional, misusing this term as so often in artspeak). However he is forgiven this as his video is an engrossing, visually rich, tightly orchestrated nostalgia trip exorcising the personal and political demons instilled by a late 20th century upbringing. His video collage is carefully sound tracked with some iconic musical clips and includes archival material from television shows and advertisements as well as a digitally rendered concrete motorway bridge. This bleak urban image is one that has obsessed him from childhood and seems to distill the claustrophobic anomie of much post-war culture. This gave the film a dark and disorientating quirkiness that distinguishes it from similar archive based videos. His compact and powerful exhibition later in the year at Cubitt Gallery, Affect Bridge Age Regression included a model of the bridge lit by  cold sodium street lamps and a grimly poetic sound installation based on extending the lyrics of the Edgar Broughton Band’s Out Demons Out whose channeling of teenage fury I first encounterered in a memorable live rendition by a schoolboy proto-punk band at an end of term concert in 1973. In his lyrics Leckey introduced me to the term alembicated (excessively subtle), so perhaps  there is something to be said for artspeak.

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Installation view of  The Craft (2017) courtesy of the artist, Monira al Qadiri

Kuwaiti  born artist Monira Al Qadiri’s 16 minute VHS film The Craft at Gasworks in August also drew heavily on the long political and personal shadows cast by her childhood in the Middle East.   Incorporating archive footage from her past, it explored the magical thinking that children are prone to and how their sense of unreality can be reinforced by parental obfuscation. It featured a clip of al Qadiri as a child showing her drawings in a TV interview.  Her diplomat father is seen to prompt her to relate it to her traumatic experience of a recent air raid. But Al Qadiri reflects in the voiceover that the figures she has drawn are more amorphous, mythical creatures that she experiences as “aliens” from outerspace. In the film she links the child’s sense of unreality with the destabilising influence of American cultural imperialism with a sequence showing the bizarre recreation of an 1950’s red and green styled American diner in  Beirut. We watch the video in an installation that replicates this diner!


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