07 – 27 June 2012
MK Gallery, Milton Keynes
‘Dark heather checked my feet. Below marched the suburban street lamps. Windows, their curtains drawn, were shut eyes, inwardly watching the lives of dreams. Beyond the sea’s level darkness a lighthouse pulsed. Overhead, obscurity.’ – Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker
The programme proposes a light invocation, through the medium of artist film to coincide with the foretold alignment of the sun along Midsummer Avenue, Avebury Boulevard and Silbury Boulevard on Midsummer’s Day in Milton Keynes. The films focus on aspects of the self and psychical experience whilst reflexively working with the film medium and the tensions it produces between exterior and interior and light and dark.
Lucy Reynolds, Lake (Nocturne) (2007). 16mm transferred to video, silent b&w, 10′. Courtesy of the artist.
Lake (nocturne) is a study of the interplay of artificial light with the
changing patterns and movements in nature, exploring the illuminations and obfuscations that occur in landscape after dark. The shadowy forms of landscaped lake and parkland also resonate with past narratives of the pleasure garden, recalling the original meaning of nocturne as a term for music composed to be performed at night-time, as accompaniment to the
illuminated tableaux, spectacles and fétes of grand gardens, evoking a lost domain.
Duncan Marquiss, Midday (2011). 16mm transferred to DV, silent, b&w, 3′. Courtesy of the artist.
Duncan Marquiss, Late Cinema (2009). 16mm transferred to DV, silent, colour, 5’24”. Courtesy of the artist.
Sarah Pucill, Blind Light (2007). 16mm transfered to video, 22′. Courtesy of the artist and LUX, London.
Blind Light is filmed in the artist’s London loft. The presence of camera, studio and artist/performer are registered through image and sound, the loss of the former filling out the presence of the latter. In this way the physicality of object, space and subject as well as their interiority is fleshed out, mapping out a space that is at once material and psychical. Controlling the light she allows into the frame, the artist lifts the blinds or pulls them shut, applies or removes lens filters, opens wide the aperture or closes it. Each performance or action threatens the image as it shifts in and out of ‘proper’ exposure until it disappears completely. Focusing either on the window or the sky, the artist narrates her camera operation whilst also describing what she sees; intermixing receptive and projective vision. ‘I can’t look’, she says, ‘the clouds are coming in’, ‘there’s been no rain for weeks’, ‘the eye burns, swells, looses focus and disappears in a stream’. Between aperture, eyeball, sun and moon, source and projection swap place. The film journeys from the grounded reality of the here and now – audibly represented through footsteps, birds and traffic, to a psychical space expressed through voice and abstraction. Blind Light explores the fold between the materiality of film, the psyche and the body.
Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth, If You Can’t See My Mirrors I Can’t See You (2010). Single channel video, 16′. Courtesy of the artists.
An online video chat generates two live portraits with changeable backdrops. It is a digital two-way mirror, a self-reflexive feedback loop wherein we witness ourselves talking back. ‘If You Can’t See My Mirrors I Can’t See You’ invites the audience to eavesdrop upon the artists’ Skype conversation. The dynamics of the dialogue are recorded and reassembled, to reveal spaces between and around objects and subjects. The computer screen operates as both a mirror and lamp, whilst acting as a frame into another world and a mimetic means of duplicating information.
Programmed by Laura Guy and Elsa Richardson
‘One night when I had tasted bitterness in my mouth I went out on to the hill. Dark heather checked my feet…Two lights for guidance. First our little glowing atom of community, with all that it signifies. The second, the cold light of the stars, symbol of the hypercosmical reality, with its crystal ecstasy’ – Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker, 1937
Olaf Stapledon’s science fiction novel Star Maker (1937) begins with the mysterious freeing of the unnamed protagonist’s consciousness from the confines of his body. Newly unencumbered, our narrator departs suburbia for distant solar systems, sprawling galaxies and alien civilisations. As he journeys the narrator’s psyche is revealed as an endlessly malleable entity, dividing and expanding, merging with individual and group minds to eventually play its minute role in forming a vast cosmical consciousness. In this remarkable work Stapleton recounts the history of the universe as seen through the prism of an individual mind.
In the year 2000 a stone circle was erected in Milton Keynes. Titled ‘The Circle of Hearts Medicine Wheel’, it consists of two concentric circles of stones with longer stones positioned at each compass point. Situated on the energy line said to run through Midsummer Boulevard in the centre of Milton Keynes, this modern Neolithic structure accesses Pagan traditions and pre-Christian resonances. It is during the short period of Midsummer that this ancient ley line becomes visible, as the sun rises in precise alignment with Midsummer Boulevard, Avebury Boulevard and Silbury Boulevard. Built to mark the millennium and intended as a meeting place for the city’s residents, the monument brings the presence of deep time to an urban environment seemingly lacking an extended history of its own.
The summer solstice marks the day on which the axial tilt of the Earth, in a given hemisphere, is most inclined towards the Sun: an astronomical happening that signifies an extremity of light, a marker of time and movement through the seasons. These films have been bought together to coincide with this event. Each work is linked through the interplay of light and the self against, before and within the film/ video medium. In Lucy Reynolds’s Lake (Nocturne) artificial light plays eerily across a landscape we cannot situate, the uncanny effect directing us to a world played for film and the world outside of it. Duncan Marquiss’s two videos, Midday and Late Cinema, flicker across the screen, drawing our bodies in as the oscillation of images strikes our nervous systems. Sarah Pucill’s Blind Light is rendered with great economy as the substance of film is so exceeded by light, touch and feeling. The work provokes the suspension of the everyday world, as image, as the body and psyche ceaselessly coalesce and break away. In Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth’s If You Can’t See My Mirrors I Can’t See You we are in turns suspended, as real and virtual spaces enmesh, encircling objects and subjectivities, in a feedback loop of the artists making.
We have a desire to begin to unpack the relations between imagined psychical space and our bodies in this place. On the lightest day we arrive weighed down with a projector, discs and neat spirals of film. Our lived experience is of body and image enfolded into the world. Film produces, through a unique combination of dichotomies (light/dark, visual/sound, past/present, materiality/immateriality), a disjuncture between the two. As once began a lecture on film given by Hollis Frampton, ‘we are, shall we say, comfortably seated. We may remove our shoes, if that will help us to remove our bodies’.