Talking pictures in movies wink knowingly or remove their heads. In art galleries they exist in a fluid world between the floating layers of the real: the viewer, the screen and film. There is the image that takes up (in this case) a large physical space and a small portion of time, assuming it ends between showings; and then all the natural and artificial, still and moving things within the video itself. I felt as if in a small boat floating with the current on a deep sea when looking at these two video installations from We The People Are The Work: More Than a Pony Show and Advice From a Caterpillar.
The works we now have in galleries only a minute’s walk away compliment each other and are a pair – very simply – studies of the city as a place of groups and individuals, which I’m sure our great curators intended. They are awash with meanings, political and otherwise, and both belong to genres with a long lineage.
If I reach a little into the water Matt Stokes’ More Than a Pony Show reminds me of eighteenth century history paintings: a significant event is reconstructed and preserved using models in costume assuming mythical roles in artificial settings. The scale is the same, the rich colours, the high emotion, people assuming heroic attitudes and becoming more than their ordinary selves, like the Horatii defending Rome (http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/oath-horatii) these people defend punk from capitalism – the closure of non-profit making venues… The songs were all excellent too.
Vargas Marcotela and Thomas’s installation was the greatest work in the Weekender. Now I dive overboard and almost drown in the seaweed, such was its impression. They have made an elaborate visual conundrum – rather like one of Lewis Carroll’s logic games, out of four screens in a dark room that I shall attempt to explain as: two projections of (two different) films of separate portraits of a man and a woman moving a mirror; and two kinds of reflections of them on the reverse of the screens: a dark mirror and a ‘projection through’: the first is an unaltered ‘natural’ film shot by day, the second artificially manipulated and shot by night, the hours of dreaming.
Sections of the first film are projected back onto the bodies and the mirror of the subject in the second, so they seem to waltz with themselves as they turn around, or wrapped themselves up in reflected images of their bodies and the significant place in Plymouth where each subject chose to stand in daylight, as if in sheets of glistening tinfoil. As in Velasquez’s Las Meninas, we see the artists and their tripod quite often and odd passers-by. From the video interview with the artists you can watch in the same gallery (Peninsular Arts) we understand exactly how they collaborated with the two extras from Tim Burton’s film.
Everything else belongs to that other world that always runs through our fingers. I tried to recognize each dark strip of Plymouth’s sea front in the mirror, but it kept slipping away.