“Finding Your Name in a Library of Miracles”, on Anne Colvin
“Finding Your Name in a Library of Miracles”, on Anne Colvin
Modern Edinburgh Film School, Alex Hetherington, Edinburgh & Leeds, April 2013
Introduction: by way of illuminating, like a torch with no bright-light focal point, the following are extracts of texts, performance notes and artworks that assemble thoughts on Anne Colvin, as though she were a silhouette. To try and illuminate something with a black or inverted light, in parenthesis, on the contradictions in her practice. To mimic in a way her suggestion of “Epiphanies in the Dark.”
“The often seemingly obscure connections between the different phases of my work have been in need of clarification for some time now.” “The Story of Ruth”, Ruth Francken
“…such pockets of meaning are themselves subject to the principle of dispersion, that they drift off as flows of intensity in different directions and create space for new fragments of meaning”
“Uprooting others is a crime, uprooting oneself is a victory.” Peter Handke
“Copy Me”, 2010, Rosemarie Trockel, Acrystal, steel, textile, wool, leather, and mixed mediums
“the vacated rooms in Louise Lawler’s photographs are marked by layers of cultural and behavioural residue. From the stifling stillness of a completely empty gallery, pictured in “You Could Hear a Rat Piss on Cotton - Charlie Parker “(1987), to images showing the horror vacui of sterile domestic spaces filled with art and ornament, Lawler reanimates artworks as strange object, snapped out of passive stasis, shown yet-unborn, in repose or in the glow of afterlife, prone to the frames of exhibition and photography [and time]”, Louise Lawler, Still Life (Candle), 2003. Exhibited in “The Quick and The Dead”. Peter Eleey, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA 2009
Marcel Broodthaers, Projections: “Le Catalogue et La Signature”, 1968
Marc Camille Chaimowicz, “Doubts… a Sketch for TV Camera and Audience, first section”, 1977, 15 mins, video documentation of performance
“At first we see an empty chair illuminated by a cold blue spotlight, and facing part-way between a video-monitor and a large projection of an image of a pair of closed interior double doors. The artist enters and, seated on the chair with his back to the audience, begins to swing a silvered pendulum to and fro. The video camera, positioned to one side, relays the artist’s black and white image on the monitor so that it is visible both to himself and to the audience. The artist then leaves the space and a pre-recorded videotape of ten minutes duration is played back on the monitor. This tape, coloured in soft pastel hues, presents five narratives sequences depicting domestic activities in an interior space: writing, cleaning the face at a mirror, taking tea, looking out of the window and lying on the bed. The first part of the performance is accompanied by the relaxing and contemplative sound of Brian Eno’s Discreet Music. This is contrasted in the second part by two tracks from Lou Reed’s Coney Island Baby: Nobody’s Business and Coney Island Baby.”, Tamara Krikorian: ‘Recent performances by Marc Chaimowicz’
“That Calpurnia led a modest double life never dawned on me. The idea that she had a separate existence outside our household was a novel one, to say nothing of her having command of two languages.” Harped Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, 1961
“”The Structure of Ice”. Atoms are in constant motion; they touch and turn and move by mutual collisions and blows. And as they move, they collide and become entangled in such a way as to cling in close contact with one another. 1997, voice-over, 3 minutes, Tacita Dean”
Colvin’s work in moving image (she also has a practice as exhibition and publication curator and poet, and contemporary art practice studio tutor at CCA, San Francisco and the San Francisco Art Institute) selects, sequences and distracts, stages, repeats, floods, preserves, stops, and loops the screen. She bends and coalesces the subject and its surface, and shrinks the spaces, interruptions and chasms between time and image (detail, understanding, encounter, receiver).
These works are often fleeting, often residual, often a doppelgänger, that stages itself like its own cameo. It is a mirror. Her works are mystical screen forms (they resonate with charged moments, often significant points in rock, dance or experimental film) and analogue-culturally cued but digitally-framed fields notes “son et lumière” events via Derek Jarman, Green Gartside, Maya Deren, Michael Clark, Nina Beier, Jack Goldstein, Wallace Berman, Agnés Varda and David Bowie on Top of the Pops, and The Clash live in London, The Fall’s “Bend Sinister”, Muriel Belcher and Margaret Tait.
Scottish-born, educated in London and Edinburgh in Psychology and Visual communication and based in San Francisco, California, her work ‘yields’ to this transportation, this migrated single, double, triple identity. She is a kind of “Girl Stowaway in the Herzogin Cecile”, a celebrant of coincidence, a navigator in filmic past and present oppositions, of movements forward: hybrid economies, educations, freedoms, emotions, enlightenment, euphoria, alternative cultures, multiple media and spaces. (“I was in a shop photocopying the newspaper article about the wreck of the Herzogin Cecile, when “Jean Genie” [David Bowie, 1972] came onto the radio.” From Tacita Dean’s descriptive text on her 1994 film. * The stowaway’s real name was Miss Jean Jeinnie).
This essay on Colvin has been written in several different versions, mostly rejected, and this published draft is a preserved recycled text (the schisms of its ancestors are present); it is an inefficient slight voice-over to Colvin’s very efficient but poetic, pristine video model. It restates and replicates her staging the tension between memory, preservation, the moving image and its presentation as a kind of word-film symmetry, her video and voice accompaniment ‘counter-performance’.
At various stages, this invocation, as a “Portrait of Anne Colvin” included literature, text and scripts, but mostly poems, by Allen Ginsberg, Thom Gunn and Gertrude Stein, read but not quoted, just suggested, reminiscent of the way her works occupies a staging of “references like glitter, like cultural scatter”, her seeing of another thing when looking at one, observing its transparency or mutability.
Three of Anne Colvin’s recent video works have screened during “The Hand that Holds The Desert Down”, at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, March 15 2013, while a fourth will be presented as a loop at a forthcoming event during the course of works for Modern Edinburgh Film School. The Hand reel reveals itself as a potent film “event as image” about women and the screen, and in particular an affinity on learning how to make film or approach making film, within a proximity to feminine connotations, the female screen, the female camera, through feminine vocabularies and observations. In turn the reel echoes and comments on a broader speculation about the ideas of film: subject, documentary, authenticity, voice, time and a poetic susceptibility, artificiality or sensitivity seen in the co-curated project “Green Screen” at Embassy Gallery, Edinburgh 15-31 March 2013. Colvin’s work appearance forms a parity between these subjects.
“The Hand that Holds the Desert Down”’s title comes from a photograph by the American artist Trisha Donnelly, a cropped documentary black and white image of the Sphinx, and a second work of hers Untitled, 2008 that positions the viewer in the cross beams of two headlights attached to the faces of twinned sphinxes. It speculates on her ‘Riddle’, her hybrid mythical, mystical form and the implications of observation, and detachment.
“Movement of Fear, 11”, 2012 presents a sequence showing the surveillance of a Rodin sculpture in a museum, this illicit act: “No Video, No Photography”, is repeated in a highly styled colour-saturated screen: drawing on being ‘watched’ by gallery or museum security staff, and observing on that behaviour of control and artificial serenity within “the access of privilege”. Her film with its rising urgency becomes a kind of miniature horror film. “Movement of Fear, 1”, 2012, uses a reverse escape shot, landscape video artefacts, the horror house panning shot, a slow motion revealing figure, it is an impersonation of a horror sequence, familiar and uncanny, urgency and dread; in doing so this collage of “set-ups” anticipating outcomes, stages just anticipation itself.
“Miss Calpurnia”, 2011, a film-poem is about composition on screen, and a drawing toward the focus of peripheral action, edge-aware. A female figure runs, is frozen, bends over, picks up an object, is reversed and looped, her action, its purpose or what she is gesturing for, becomes a trap. The ultra transient nature of a small purposeless action is amplified and scrutinised: “Attn: Miss Calpurnia is an iteration of a film, a figure, a still, an image, a page and a color fax machine. In a never-ending, transforming loop, material components move from film to video to fax to copy to print in the deconstruction of the still and moving image.” It mediates between technologies, stills, delivery systems, and speculates on how “The Unseeing Eye” of these technologies might come to understand the images they project, store, screen, hold and transmit: teaching a fax machine how to make video art.
“Vladimir and Rosa”, 2011, “one of a three-channel installation, continuous loop. Dimensions variable. Part of a fictional dance company project, (right click on screen and turn loop on)” is a short, pristine film “object” and “machine”. The edits and surfaces “hang”, pause, appear, fade, reappear, pause, focus, release…a dance gesture, a tiny choreographed phrase or utterance within a broader physical gesture, hyper coloured, and stylised. Its pace and brevity suggest a rhythm or a beat, its visual phraseology like animated vocal disfluencies - the in-between parts of speech - her colour palette, becomes a ‘synesthetic experience’, a mixing and contaminating of senses and meaning, tracing out Alexander von Humboldt’s suggestion that “there is an apparent connection between sound and meaning which, however, only seldom lends itself to an exact elucidation, is often only glimpsed, and most usually remains obscure” or to a psychedelic take on Erik Satie’s “Vexations”, “a few bars of fragmentary melody meant to be repeated 840 times in succession”.
Colvin’s work studies the ‘depiction’, and an understanding of it, using the things, surfaces and emotions that might surround its subject. Revealing in stages, repeats, in short takes, and loops she presents absence, collision, contradiction and coincidence. By pointing to the thing off-stage, in the mentioning of something about to appear she catalyses a ‘presence’, a consciousness.
Leeds collage, 2013
Tacita Dean in a Revolving Restaurant/Touch to Begin
“Can I See That?” 26 April 2013 ESW
Notes on the practice of Zoë Fothergill, Alex Hetherington, Leeds, 18 April 2013
“If you rise at dawn in a clear sky, and during the month of March, they say you can catch a bag of air so intoxicated with the essence of spring that when it is distilled and prepared, it will produce an oil of gold, remedy enough to heal all ailments… A substance that is both celestial and terrestrial.”
“Cinema is like that; the present doesn’t appear in it.” Jean-Luc Godard
Edinburgh-based visual artist Zoë Fothergill, recently presented at Green Screen at Embassy Gallery as part of the first installments of Modern Edinburgh Film School. She returns with a comparative form to that exhibition to show three moving image works as a one-day event at ESW.
Encompassing the staging of three films this event titled “Can I see that?” offers works that mediate between action, duration, interactivity and documentary, and allude to ideas of the camera – its gaze, surveillance, inspection and truth, witness and science. Through illustrative ideas on comparison - not as a form of judgment but a descriptive juxtaposition - she explores the genre of “telling”, the methods to secure authenticity and the predicaments of the sorting of information, its retrieval, its delivery and its request, sometimes by way of ‘the accomplice’ or ‘accusation’.
Her works are projects on the constructing of seeing, of knowledge and its movement to and from belief, (microscopes, evidence, peep holes) that also, in sensitive annotations on her subjects, allude to primal thought, physicality on screen, and the luxury of the visible: seduction and gaze and the miracles of sensitivity: touch, texture, surface. These instruments in her practice key into and cue suggestions of social representation, personal identity and lines of reaction between subject, artist and audience.
Fothergill’s other material is time, and the engineers (this machinery is made visible) of its perception: slow motion, rewind, freeze frame, pause, and where thought and action (blowing an egg, gesturing an invitation, confessing love, or petting an animal) become codas of repetition, and trust, presenting a distinctive enquiry between seeing, as it is thought to exist, and the tangible, as it feels to exist.
The works are Ova and Ova (2012) 10mins, Focus (2011) 8mins and Fingersmith (2012) and will be shown in different spaces throughout ESW.
Finding your name in a library of miracles, 2013
Girl Stowaway in a Revolving Restaurant, 2013