MAstars 2011: Paul Farmer, MA Fine Art: Contemporary Practice

MAstars 2011: Paul Farmer, MA Fine Art: Contemporary Practice Paul Farmer, We will see the death of our sun, 2011. Four channel video and sound installation. 30 mins 18 secs

Andy Harper selects Paul Farmer from University College Falmouth for MAstars

Paul Farmer’s video installation appears at first to be a straightforward visual conundrum. It asks viewers to position themselves in an imaginary space and is, despite its use of fairly crude techniques, surprisingly effective.

Put simply, this is a road movie. There are four video projections in a rectangular room enclosing a group of chairs. Boxed in by the four projections, each image shows a different view filmed from a vehicle travelling down a road. Each view corresponds to the view you would get if you were actually in or on the car. Facing the central projection, the road stretches out in front of you, the projection to the right and left flashes by hedges and houses, while the image behind you leaves the same road behind. I found myself frantically switching views between each image to check that they were all on the same point of the same road at the same time.

Recognising the actual road, the St. Ives to St Just coastal road might reward some viewers even further. The vehicle winds its way through residential areas and the rural, sometimes epic, landscape. You would think that a journey which started within spitting distance of Porthmeor Beach and the Tate St Ives, running past Eagles Nest and through the villages of Zennor and Botallack could make more of a play with these rich cultural associations. However, the narration avoids the obvious romantic connections with the artistic legacy of this route.

Having deciphered the apparatus of the video installation and congratulated oneself for identifying the place, one might expect to move on to the next MA students show (there are quite a few more students this year than in previous years). But in the time it has taken to unpick the dynamics of the piece, the subtler and arguably stronger elements of the work have begun to work on you.

The narration is sporadic, not a cohesive prose, but disjointed statements, some slight and anecdotal, others more psychogeographic and philosophical. A music track fades in and out, harmonic even hypnotic at times, but then disruptive at others. The clarity of the narrator’s voice dissolves and descends into repetitive iterations, short loops and rhythmic chants, not unlike the compositions of Gavin Bryars or Steve Reich. Some cars seem to be in reverse. There are continuity issues, as things seem to drift out of sync, but by now, immersed in this perplexing experience, these glitches seem less like technical limitations and become part of the poetry. The understanding built up in the initial moments crumbles under the strain of this beguiling strangeness in the work.

One can easily envisage this work in a professional setting but for two things that need addressing. Firstly, the chairs and how they were arranged felt sloppy; I am sure there is a neater solution. Secondly the soundtrack, although bewitching, relied on fairly obvious acoustic tricks. I suspect, in a world of increasingly sophisticated sound editing software, it could have been even more surprising.

Selected by Andy Harper
Published October, 2011

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