NOVEMBER, 25, 2009


2009, 5 minutes
single channel video


Weight and perspective.

John Wood and Paul Harrison bring to EMPTY CUBE their video White Shirt (2009). In this piece, the authors continue an approach in which the spectator is confronted with situations that oscillate between the possibility of an accident and the absurdity of an improbable event. Throughout their work, which began in the mid-1990s, drawing, video recordings of performative actions and the use of everyday objects have been combined into a visual system that creates in the spectator a permanent need to revaluate the limits of the body and of space.  
This visual system comprises the creation of spaces conceived and built with a well-structured economy of means, so as to concentrate the viewer’s gaze on a particular event, as if our eye had been singly drawn into a cinema studio or onto a theatre stage, generating a disturbing intimacy between the spectator and various fragments of unfinished narratives. In these short narratives, performed by the artists themselves or by objects that act as characters in an animated film, we find ourselves confronted with the world’s fallibility, conveyed through an ambiguous relationship between the tragic and the comic.
White Shirt presents to us an apparently familiar universe. The first image we see is enigmatic: a door that displays, at the screen’s very centre, a peephole, such as can be typically found in many homes. The door opens, and we are slowly led into a hotel room. The open suitcase, the shoes by the bed and the coat on the back of the chair all convey the feeling of a presence. Silence and camera movement evoke the atmosphere of a thriller film, all the while seducing us as if we were looking at a succession of paintings, whose panoramic sequencing reproduces the interiors of a house. The horizontal movement of the camera stops, and we see a close-up shot of a white shirt with a pen in its pocket. After a few seconds, an event disturbs our gaze, until then focused on the white surface of the shirt. A line of shiny black ink runs down, until the pen’s reservoir is drained. Then, the film’s action is resumed as if the camera movement had been inverted, leading us back until the door is once again closed.
In this video, Wood and Harrison inquire into our ability to distinguish, in the realms of representation, an approximate image of reality from a fictional creation; to tell the time of the video camera’s travelling shot from the gravitational velocity of the running ink’s ‘weight’. Where do we stand, as we stand in front of a door that opens – and closes – in a hotel room?   The work of these two artists displays a performative awareness that is part of the action of using the moving image as a device that alters the mechanisms of perception: a visual and psychological experience that occurs between fragility and permanence, between ‘as if’ and impossibility. Between perplexity and humour.

João Silvério
November 2009