there has been no significant post-production, and this emphasises our awareness of the artist at the scene: setting up shots and making editing decisions on the fly. The artist’s state may be active, but long periods of passivity are enforced by the automated nature of the technology. As viewers we become complicit in this waiting game. The same active-passive state descends upon us as we watch, on the lookout for something to happen. Are we security guards for the motorbikes orfor the video equipment? We are now workers too, and the work becomes a chore, but we have to be ready in case something changes in these narrativeless scenes. What does happen is that we become increasingly aware of the fetishistic eye of the artist. As we, the viewers, become machine-like in our stasis, so the machines in the videos become more animated and animalistic. From initially appearing to be the work of a dispassionate, neutral observer, Lloyd’s lingering camerawork and choice of focus eventually suggest a voyeuristic pleasure. We are presented with the visceral grunt of internal combustion engines as they spark, shudder and growl into life. They spill, drip and dribble. Mechanics’ hands delve inside to administer liquids, tweak pipes and flanges, wipe down vibrating surfaces. Joints are prised apart, slotted together and intermittently clanged with a hammer. This is what the artist chooses to dwell upon. It brings to mind both Peeping Tomand Crash. And yet ... the quality of the video itself (enlarged to two-metre projections) cannot match the precision and vitality of the bikes. The gleaming surfaces, the detailed brand decals, the familiar charcoal-grey grid pattern of the carbon fibre – all blurred by the limited resolution of the video. This fetishisation of hard and wet mechanics reveals the impoverishment and inadequacy of video’s electronic representation. And make no mistake, the medium of video is what this installation is about, hence the primacy of the technical paraphernalia. How restrained this technology seems against the vitality of machines that consume liquids, throb with life and expel gaseous fumes, which draw the artist’s longing eye. Since Lloyd has previously utilised the rich visual qualities of slide and super 8 film, this work is surely about the bloodless nature of this electronic medium, and the consequent shift in the role of the artist: the captivated voyeur with her lifeless viewers. ❚
DAVIDBARRETT is an artist and publisher.
■ Emily Wardill Jonathan Viner Gallery London
September 13 to October 5
Emily Wardill’s two impressive new films probe the fallible power of the human voice in its dual function to communicate private thoughts and install these concepts in the minds of others. Conscious that political rhetoric is little more than narrative trickery, Wardill’s films have, over the last few years, unleashed a fusillade of deflationary techniques garnered from modernist culture: disjunctive narratives, absurdly emotionless voice-overs, high camp, nudge-nudge comedy. Wardill’s more sumptuous work here, The Diamond (Descartes’ Daughter), is no exception; but the second, Sea Oak(both films, 2008) is a new departure for the artist. Sea Oakis austere and punchy. As if under interrogation, an old-fashioned film projector sits atop a pedestal in the centre of a darkened room whose walls are wreathed in black curtains. Startlingly lit by a dangling light bulb, the projector casts no image of its own, a gesture redolent of Guy Debord’s imageless 1952 movie, Howls for Sade. Likewise concerned with rhetorical coercion, Sea Oakis an audio recording (on film) of interviews with members of the American left-wing think tank the Rockridge Institute. The first speaker, Eric Haas, traces the western liberal’s distrust of rhetoric back to Descartes (1596-1650), who stated that reason was a universal human capacity. Descartes’ spirit haunts Sea Oakin more ways than one: hovering in blank space the disembodied voices of the Institute form a wobbly image of the Cartesian mind – the ghost in the machine. Installed in an adjacent gallery space The Diamond (Descartes’ Daughter)concerns the other half of the equation: the machine without a soul. This film is based on the apocryphal story of Descartes’ attempt to remake his daughter, Francine, who died aged five of scarlet fever, several years later as a 15-year-old clockwork robot. The myth – which seems to have been around for donkey’s years – concerns the philosopher’s final sea voyage to Sweden, to the court of Queen Christina, along with his ‘daughter’; a storm brews, the sailors suspect Descartes of ‘dark magic’, open his travelling box and discover the mechanical monster. Horrified, they chuck it overboard, breaking Descartes’ heart a second time. As a melodrama, it serves to demonstrate two supposedly oppositional
Hilary Lloyd Motorcycles 2008 video installation
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