Single screen video with six channel sound, 4 mins, 2017.
The video has a soundtrack that reworks an Edwardian variety song about a worker’s grave that is moved so that new drains can be laid to upgrade a rich gent’s residence. The worker, the song goes, will haunt the toilet of the city chap in revenge ‘and only let him go’ when the worker allows him. The video uses found drain-inspection footage that could almost be depicting the journey of the worker’s lost, wretched soul back up to the surface of the world for his frightening, riotous vengeance.
Still at Large written and presented by Nicholas Still
Single screen video with six channel sound, 11 mins, 2015.
The video at first seems to be a film essay about Holy Island, written and presented by architecture writer Nicholas Still. But there is another voice that has mysteriously imposed itself on the soundtrack, a female voice which speaks of a figure on the run from an unspoken crime. This figure is up to his neck in the sea, in the manner of St. Cuthbert, who liked inducing trances by the chill of the water. The voice describes the fugitive’s many ‘hyperthermal’ apocalyptic reveries over the soundtrack’s relentless motorik beat, until it drowns in its own poetic vitriol. Thanks to Richard Stephenson Winter and Melanie Dagg.
Two screen video with stereo sound, 8 mins, 2010.
The footage on one screen is of the petrol station shot in 2001, on the other screen are the same views re-shot nine years later. The subtitles on each screen appear to be having a sardonic conversation with each other about fonts, the weather, the passing of time, music and silence, why an artist would want to re-make a video work nine years after making it, personal and artistic regret, and failure.
Purchased in 2015 by The Arts Council Collection.
Thin Air by Dr Annette Gomperts
The Psycho-Vocalic Discoveries of Alan Smithson
Vocal monologue and noise for lecture theatre, with projected still images and accompanying book, six channel sound, 60 mins, 2009.
Belgian architectural historian Dr Annette Gomperts and her collaborator Paul Rooney have produced Thin Air: part academic lecture, part science-fiction story. Thin Air highlights the legacy of 1970s Leeds Polytechnic student Alan Smithson, who claimed that ‘voices’ he had recorded in the Polytechnic’s H Building were sonic manifestations of memories that had been somehow preserved in the electromagnetic ether of it’s rooms through a process which he called ‘site-anamnesis’. Smithson also asserted that the particularly radical and eventful — and ultimately tragic — history of the building had contributed to it’s facility for preserving and recalling the charged moments of remembrance.
Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine) review of the work.
Abi Bliss (Frieze magazine online) review of the work.
Single screen video with stereo sound, 25 mins, 2008.
In a dark, apparently derelict Liverpool cinema, Tony (played by Tony Schumacher), an amateur comedian and gumshoe detective, chats with other comics in the ticket queue and the bar. He talks of his recent visits to his past life regression therapist, and tells some of the jokes he has written about it. At various points the other male and female comics in the cinema relay messages to Tony from an unknown and unseen man who is trying to contact him. There is clearly something unpleasant that Tony has stumbled on at some time in his past, something that he is impelled to uncover further, despite the risks. Will Tony’s past catch up with him before he does? Originally commissioned by Tate Liverpool.
Purchased in 2012 by the Victoria Gallery and Museum with funds from The Contemporary Art Society.
Alex Hetherington (A-N website) review of the work.
Tony Schumacher‘s memories of filming the work.
La Décision Doypack
Vocal monologue and music, with 16mm film (also text only version), stereo, 27 mins, 2008.
The work is inspired by a real web memoir by a retired Australian food-packaging company manager, Mackenzie J. Gregory, who remembers walking the night-time streets of Paris during the turbulent events of May 1968. The dominant monologue of the work (spoken by John Eastman) — which is accompanied by rock music, sound effects and 16mm film images of drama students awkwardly ‘acting out’ the narrative — extends Gregory’s memoir into fiction, playing with contradictory writing styles, from consumer product description to romantic poetry. It is partly because of this connection with real life and real events that the work’s imaginative confabulation and formal artifice is thrown into relief, underlining the melancholy comedy of our attempts to do justice to the past. Originally commissioned by Radar and Matt’s Gallery with funds from Arts Council England.
Skye Sherwin (The Guardian) preview of the work.
Vocal monologue and music, with video (also text only version), stereo, 9 mins, 2006.
In the partly sung, partly spoken female monologue (spoken by Paula Berry, with music by Oliver Jackson and Greg Arrowsmith) a fictional hotel maid describes a song (the Brecht-Weill song Pirate Jenny, which is about a maid who looks out of her hotel window and imagines a ship that appears in the harbour, a ship that has come to avenge her suffering). The maid’s description of her song is, in turn, imaginatively expanded to incorporate various historical moments involving ships that do not berth and remain offshore, including the Norwegian container ship Tampa, which, when carrying Afghan refugees in 2001, was not allowed to land on Australian territory and was condemned to wait offshore for days in the glare of the world’s media. A single unedited video shot of the view walking the deck of a freighter accompanies the sound. Originally commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella as part of the Single Shot project.
There Are Two Paths
Documentation of a two-part performance (for the English Midlands) by two five piece bands, 40 mins each performance, 2003.
Two groups of musicians alternating two verses from ‘Stairway to Heaven’. The verses are played by one band, then repeated by the other band but played and sung backwards. Then the verses are played forwards again … and so on. The ‘Satanic’ phonetic accidents of the reversed song make lines such as “there is power in Satan” audible. Following the initial performance of the piece in the Shropshire countryside, the work was next performed in a Birmingham city centre square (this video cuts between the two performances). The popular myths of guitarists selling their souls to the devil in order to play the blues like no-one else. The English need to obsess about a rural ideal to pretend that the selling of their souls to the ‘dark satanic mills’ of industrialisation never happened. That kind of thing. Commissioned by Meadow Gallery/Ikon Gallery.
Music for three monitors, six channel sound, 10 mins looped, 2002.
Doreen Hughes, a former resident of a block of flats about to be demolished, was asked to list the objects that filled three rooms in her former flat. These words were set to music and sung by a lead female voice with two-part harmony, with a multiple voice backing by the same singer. This forms the soundtrack to static video shots of the same, now empty, rooms. The listing of the hand made furniture made by Doreen’s husband Bernie, who died just as they left the flat, forms the focal point for the piece and the content of the main musical harmony. The work suggests a lament both for a human relationship and for the soon to be demolished flats, and a claim for labour as its own memorial. Originally commissioned by Further Up in the Air, Liverpool. Special thanks to Marie Therese Escritt.
Purchased in 2015 by The Arts Council Collection.
John Schofield essay referencing the work.
Lights Go On
The song of the nightclub cloakroom attendant
Music with video (also sound only version), stereo, 2 mins, 2001.
Nightclub cloakroom attendant Melodie Hook was asked to describe her job. These words were set to music and sung by a lead female voice backed by two other singers. The song plays out to video images of an empty nightclub space on the Sunday morning after the night before, the ‘choral’ singing conjuring a contradictory sense of unity and fellowship from lyrics that describe an isolated context with a very unstable sense of community. Originally commissioned by Gloucester City Council. Special thanks to Jackie Kerr.