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the "BUY THIS" installation:



The Centre Cannot Hold, Part 1 - "BUY THIS"
Description of the installation

Entering the space you find yourself amongst woven textile table cloths, screens made of string, paper and rotting wood, electronic pixels, documentary internet multimedia, charcoal handwriting, randomised synth pitches and samples.  Rather than simply a juxtaposition of 'analogue' and 'digital' worlds, the sense is more that of a single world inhabited by super-fast and imagery-saturated internet economies alongside 'hand-made' economies where manual labour and skill is cheap yet maintains its own integrity.   You are immediately drawn to a wide wall with a central large projection, to its right a suspended screen with a second projection, and to its left a bold block of black text which reads “HURRY! SALE MUST END!  Your Participation Is Needed.” 


The right hand screen is made of a horizontal pair of rotting wooden sticks between which a large sheet of paper is stretched, suspended high near the ceiling at an angle to the wall.  The projection simultaneously plays two video clips with one super-imposed on the other randomly selecting these from a set of fifteen or more possibilities.  The silent video imagery presents global and local instabilities and conflicts.  It may be historical such as an old documentary about the demise of Patrice Lumumba (first president of independent Congo), or about racism in the UK, or footage of military air strikes, or of hurricanes and floods in the Caribbean or Asia, or of a meeting in Brussels about the European commitments to tackling climate change – the latter in fact took place only days before it was added to the pool of playing clips.  Some of these are clips downloaded from YouTube, and others are shot by the artists or contributors.  At the same time, two lines of text crawl right to left in the top and bottom areas of this screen, relaying a mixture of news events that have just taken place or are historical contexts relating to climate and race issues.  At frequent intervals, the words “BUY THIS” momentarily appear as bold text in the centre of this screen before they zoom away.  This is saturation, bombardment with a mixture of different available media, all of which can draw critical connections, while on the other hand we can simply consume it and the entire installation and do nothing.


The centre screen presents a series of video interviews, interspersed with occasional clips of multiple shelves laden with packaged foods, or packaged historical-ethnic tourist artefacts sold in the British Museum, or holidaymakers scampering in and out of a sea horizon at a Cornwall beach, or a TV playing a recent Panorama documentary about local racism.  The interviews are carefully edited for their narrative content but are crudely edited visually, with people’s faces jumping when the video is cut to another section, and the microphone and interviewer are also often in shot.  The process of filming and editing is raw and bare; it is the content of information, expression and ideas that is the focus. These clips are also played in any random order, and a number of interviews are conducted during the exhibition period.  These are what people say, do and think right now, and they are people experiencing. representing or researching a range of climate and race issues from Tanzania to Chile to Bangladesh to the UK.  The computers playing back the video and audio material are directly networked to the computers the artists use at their bases in another city, so that the content can be changed at will and in quick response to events as they happen.  The centre screen is also linked to a webcam and can operate a live conversation or interview between people in the gallery and a remote contributor.


Opposite this wall are three paragraphs of bold text, on large paper sheets roughly masking taped on to the wall.  One is a succinct yet accessible quote about understanding racism as a system by Ms Dynamite; another an extract from Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” which critiques modernity; and the third a quote from a glossy advertising letter from Virgin Mobile to its customers.  All of this text, along with the “SALE!” text on the main wall and also the black shaded outline for the central projection, is marked out using charcoal.


Between these two walls the space is filled with tables and chairs in a café-like arrangement, and each table has a cotton cloth with an ethnic design on it, and a glass vase containing some realistic artificial flowers, street soil and tea bags (not only a packaged consumption metaphor but also a reference to this gallery’s origins as a Tea warehouse).  On the tables is an assortment of sheets of reading material, each no more than a side of A4, presenting a range of articles and extracts exploring super-corporations, racism and global inequality, advertising and its implicit values, environmental concerns and relevant histories carefully prepared for short but focused periods of reading.  There are also sheets of blank paper and pens with which anyone can write their own text, to leave for others to also read.  One of the tables has two live microphones by it, an invitation for anyone to read or speak out aloud to verbally express immediate views, disseminate information and stimulate discussion.  These give the space a performative and anticipatory air, which visitors may or may not utilise.


Two speakers are positioned in opposite corners, one plays found sounds, representing outside spaces such as shopping malls, cafes, aircraft interiors and so on that convey a sense of the kind of spaces that currently are most ‘public’ (although generally they are privately controlled). At random intervals there is the ring of a phone, the slam of a door and so on, reminding us that we are after all in an installation, not purely an unmediated social space. The other speaker plays a continuous randomly varying sound track of tones drawn from a two octave non-standard scale. Sometimes the effect is like that of muzak, but at certain moments, the intervals create wholly unexpected and jarring chords that remind us, again, of the artificiality of the space, and also that coincide with the montages on the second screen in a way that enhances them.



List of those video titles replaying within the installation that are from YouTube:


An Account of Chipko

Bristol Slaver sung by bakersearl

Climate change in Bangladesh Who will pay

Climate Finance Talks in Brussels Failed, MEP Says

Dying Fetus - Born in Sodom - Iraq War Footage

Hurricane Gustav getting ready to hit Jamaica (Cassava Piece Road)(Aug 28th 2008)(pt1)

Hurricane Kenna

Jean Binta Breeze - Cultures of Resistance 9 July 07

Preparing for disaster in Bangladesh

Southall Riots -Hambrough Tavern burnt down!

The Battle of Algiers 9of13

Congo - How did it come to this (part 1)

India and Pakistan 1947 To 2009

Lumumba Seized, Returned to Leopoldville, Congo 1960 12 5

The Kalash Valley (North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan)




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digital media artists and productions responding to themes of race, migration and globalisation

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