There is a kind of ongoing joke between myself and Lee Patterson along the lines of no matter which city in the UK I go to to attend a concert I invariably find him when I arrive stood just outside the venue with a cigarette in hand. Today I wandered around the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, London, and perusing a series of photos on a wall I found his ugly mug staring back out at me. There really is no escape.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised though. The gallery was showing the first major institutional exhibition of the work of one of Lee’s regular collaborators, the film-maker Luke Fowler. The exhibition was impressive, but one thing that hit me right from the first moment I arrived was how strange it felt to be surrounded by the work of people I feel close to in such a significant, mainstream art gallery. Right from the start, on entering the foyer copies of CDs by Lee, Taku Unami and Toshiya Tsunoda could be seen for sale on the counter, with dozens of people walking through into the gallery beyond. An odd yet inspirational experience.
I only had an hour to spend in the gallery as I was just passing through town, and intend to return next weekend to watch everything through in a little more detail on my way to next Sundays Adjacent gig, but I still enjoyed what I saw today a lot. On entry into the gallery Luke’s four recent three-minute long films made for Channel 4 television, Tenement Films are shown. They each portray an identical room in a tenement house that Luke once lived in, the first being the room he himself habited, the other three being similar rooms lived in by others. The four films seem similar, dark because they were filmed on an old 16mm camera using only the light available in the premises, but also because each room has the same architectural features and dimensions. They differ though in that each film captures the soul of the room, which varies dramatically depending on the different people living in each of them. The works also have four specially made soundtracks that link to the character of the room or its inhabitants. They were made by Lee Patterson, Toshiya Tsunoda, Charles Curtis and Taku Unami. The films are all running simultaneously in a small area so the soundtracks tended to merge into each other in the space, which is a shame as it would have been nice to have been able to experience them in isolation, though bringing them together like this also fitted with the nature of the project, four rooms, four lives fallen together under one roof.
As well as a series of photo displays there were four other major displays on show. One of these, Luke’s great 2006 film about Cornelius Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra titled Pilgrimage from Scattered Points I have seen several times before and like a lot, so I spent little time with it on this occasion, though the presence of some blown up stills from the film on the walls, and a recreation of an original Scratch Orchestra poster announcing a public performance added a nice touch. If you have not seen the film though and are in the vicinity before the exhibition ends on June 14th then I thoroughly recommend you get along.
Two other films shown are the 2001 study What you see is where you’re atÂ inspired by the work of the psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and writer Roanald D Laing, and the 2006/7 work The Nine Monads of David Bell. These two films are linked. The first studies Laing’s (in)famous Kingsley Hall institution, a kind of last refuge for the mentally ill, and the second film, made five years later focusses on one of the patients under Laing’s care. As I didn’t have much time today I could not spend the necessary time with these films, but I intend to spend it next weekend.
The film/installation that I did enjoy fully though was Fowler’s 2008 collaboration with Toshiya Tsunoda called Composition for Flutter Screen. Fowler states that the way this work is constructed is designed to disrupt the possibility of a traditional cinematic experience, and indeed this is the case. The room in which the film is projected was completely blacked out when I first walked in, and a hazy image of two small candles seemed to waver about in front of me while a whirring drone could be heard. Within seconds though all of the lights flicked on and I could see that the film was projected onto a suspended sheet, which was blown by a fan stood beside it, which stopped a second later. I noticed a wire suspended across the front of the screen as well, but before I could look more closely the lights flicked off again, the whirring began, as did the fan and the film, this time another not-quite recognisable image filling the screen. A few seconds later and on come the lights again, and this time the fan keeps whirring for a while and I realised that it was blowing onto the wire, which was amplified and thereby projecting the droning sound into the room.
The whole work contains just four or five very short clips of film of objects representing elements central to the recording work of Toshiya Tsunoda, (fire, water, light, vibration etc..) Each is shown for a while on a screen that is then blown about by the fan, which is set on a timer to turn off and on at short intervals. So as the fan interacts with the film, it also blows on the wire, which creates the “live” soundtrack for the piece as the vibrations of the wind on the wire translate into the soft drone. The film lasts just eleven minutes, but loops around over and over. It is a clever and poignant study on Tsunoda’s musical work, which is in itself an interaction with the elements on a very fundamental level. A lovely, simple and thoughtful work.
I look forward to going back next week to spend some more time with the other films. Today was really nice though. Entry is free so get along if you can.
It would appear that yet again there are problems with the site loading properly again today. Very frustrating. Apologies.