MAstars 2010: Satinder Chumber, MFA

MAstars 2010: Satinder Chumber, MFA Satinder Chumber, Untitled, 2010. HD video. 2 mins 44 secs looped

Katharine Welsh selects Satinder Chumber from Newcastle University for MAstars

Satinder Chumber presented a confident and assured final exhibition for the MFA degree show at Newcastle University. His presentation included two works. The first, a seductive silent film shot in HD video, 'Untitled' (2010), was shown on a large screen. The film begins with a close still, like a constructivist graphic shot. It appears, at first, to be a shadow, but it is mesmerisingly difficult to make out. The shot is held just long enough to catch us in the trap laid by the still image and its possible narrative when the camera begins its slow pan. An intense artificial light comes to dominate the frame and confuse any notion of duration as the film slowly reveals itself. The camera continues to pan while objects begin to appear in the frame. The effect is detached and disquieting. Polystyrene ceiling tiles and dingy lino hints at an institutional setting. A pin-board with curling notices suggests a workspace. The camera pan continues until we reach the apparent end of a set – and then continues further - and everything becomes clear. Cut back to the beginning, to the still image, and we are trapped, cast by Chumber in the role of paranoid voyeur, in a cycle of endless repetition.

The second work in Chumber's exhibition, 'Short Tree Lane' (2010), is more ambitious. In this work, an onscreen countdown alerted us to the beginnings of an encounter with the conventions of cinema. A car sits in the dark middle distance in a tree-lined country lane. The ‘point of view’ handheld camera begins its slow approach. The entire shot would appear to be lit using only the available light from the car brake and headlights. The 5:1 sound is impressive. The tremor and throb of the subwoofers provide just the required element of suspense. The rustle of the trees and a Motown track, distorted as if from a melted car radio, can just be heard. The soundtrack rises to a sharp crescendo, the camera reaches the car - and the lights go off. The ‘narrative arc’ is frustratingly never completed. This is a skillful rendition of one of the classical narrative conventions of cinema.

Both of the works in the exhibition are considered and deftly executed. Shot on a digital stills camera, the near cinematic quality the artist has been able to achieve makes the enduring questions raised in his works - of the still and moving image and the cinematic - seem once again prescient.

Selected by Katharine Welsh
Published October, 2010

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