Creative Change

It’s about time that I posted something on a very impressive exhibition which I went to see last weekend at the Cornerhouse GalleryRosa Barba’s Subject to Constant Change. Dealing with many of the themes currently preoccupying me as I delve into explorations of technology, Barba’s work thoughtfully and coolly expresses much of what 21st century academics are busy analysing – the essence(s) of digital and “post-digital” environments. Viewing her work, we are invited to consider materiality, memory, technology, technique, the relationship between past and present and the problematic nature of linear narratives. Complex relationships between text/performance, reader/viewer, the fixed and the slippery, are all considered, for instance in Time Machine, which is part script, part novella, part invention, and which looks like a projection although really it’s a print.

In one darkened gallery space, colour films run on projectors modified so that the speed and intensity of their wheels and their light alter in ways not possible on the unmodified original equipment. A series of statements and phrases apparently detached from all context appear flickering on the wall – and as I enjoyed the playful hints of meaning evoked by their flowery italic script, I also found myself fascinated by the mechanics of the projectors themselves. How much does the technology used to display these words contribute to their possible meaning and our interpretation of them? What associations are created when new and old approaches are combined? When rhythm varies and intensity is altered? Can we appreciate the past more fully by melding it with the present? At the same time we realise how both will forever evade being cemented.

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In the second gallery, a pair of projectors work together to show us the two parts of Subconscious Society.Β A crowd of local people dressed somehow “timelessly” appear to haunt the neglected interior of the Manchester Albert Hall, moving around it as though defiantly detached from some imagined authentic context and accompanied by a soundtrack of fleeting observations. One staff member (who was very keen to get feedback and discuss the installations with us) revealed with a little amusement that some visitors have been puzzled. “Why are you not doing it all on digital? Why are you using this old equipment? Isn’t it more difficult and expensive?” Well, yes. And there have been some problems – bulbs overheating, projectors stalling, film getting caught. Such difficulties are in themselves a thought-provoking part of the exhibition. The medium is as much a part of the message as is the content. Really. Barba’s refusal to embrace a lazy and straightforward “logical” modernity is what gives her exhibition its power.

Former configurations of society – and technology – may appear to be obsolete but the point is that their imprintings and patterns remain to resonate in our own time, reimagined, reasserted, reinterpreted. Using such techniques will be less possible for artists in the future. It’s hard to find not only the spare parts and the film – she is using some of the last of Kodak’s old stock apparently – but also the technicians able to handle and maintain them. In an era where digital technology lets amateurs do almost everything at the touch of a button (this blog is just one example!), it is nice to reflect on the highly skilled and patient operators/artists of the past who understood both the physics and the metaphysics.

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4 responses to “Creative Change”

  1. Jemster says :

    I love watching old Columbo episodes from the 70’s where he is constantly amazed by the gadgets of the day- tape recorders, fax machines and Polaroid cameras! Always makes me laugh. Can only imagine what he would make of today’s technology. Lol. I still reckon polaroids are pretty cool!! X

    • musingfrommanchester says :

      Yeah – and despite his amazement he always figures out within the first half hour exactly how the gadgets were used to concoct a cunning fake alibi. Usually something involving timers and looped footage hahahaha. πŸ˜€ Polaroids are fab and they are making a bit of a comeback: but with a “twist”:

      http://news.sky.com/story/1060064/polaroid-instagram-camera-to-be-launched

      X

      • Jemster says :

        Fab! What a great new concept! I miss the printed photo! Like u say, it’s a really cool ‘twist’ combining the old with the new! Far too easy just to take pics then save them to ur devices and never bother printing them or putting in albums. Yes, spot on about Columbo. Reckon he actually knew everything about the technology and was just pretending not to, eh?

        • musingfrommanchester says :

          Hmm. I dunno…hadn’t thought of that. He definitely always knew more than he was letting on though. LOL. Will be cool to see what happens with the digital polaroid cams. πŸ™‚
          X

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