1st May - 22 June 2008
I AM / WE ARE
Show opening Wednesday 30 April starting at 6 pm
Show runs from 1st May to 22 June 2008
Tuesday- Sunday, noon to 6 pm, free entry
(27 - 29 May : exhibitions specially closing at 7 pm)
*Tuesday 27 May 7pm
"Show must go on" Free showing
Screenings of Miranda Pennell's and Alexia Walther's videos *
Miranda Pennell initially studied contemporary dance in New York and Amsterdam, before going on to explore movement through the prism of cinema and the motion picture camera. While her film work has slowly led her away from contemporary dance, her interest in performance remains central to her art; space, time, the relationship between the human subject and the camera, and the observation of movement and calm are grasped by a precise and distinct choreographic sensibility.
Her films and videos question the "real" world in sometimes improbable settings and through diverse subjects, whether stuntmen, teenage skaters, or soldiers. These characters, whose actions often fit into some form of collective behavior, seem coordinated by a uncertain logic, governed by rules that are concealed from the viewer. The choreography, like the rituals, is articulated in binary configurations at least, for example the dance of the actors and that of the camera, which resonate in "counterpoint." (Miranda Pennell) Neither can be reduced to the other.
In You Made Me Love You, 21 male and female dancers play cat and mouse with the camera (John Smith), which moves about in an unexpected way, quickly or slowly, to the left and now to the right, gliding along on a rail. Meanwhile the troupe of ballet dancers tries to maintain visual contact with the camera. Their gaze, filling the frame, bewilders the viewer. The soundtrack carefully orchestrates moments of muted tension and the footfalls of the dancers—a sound all the more confused in that no feet are seen in the image. Like a battle for drawing attention to the dance floor, this film also recalls the mad rush to grab the media spotlight. "Losing contact can be a traumatic experience." (Miranda Pennell)
In Pennell's films, the movement of the actors clashes with the rigid attitude of the camera. At that point of friction, filming zeroes in on details sometimes to the point of shooting out of focus, Pennell manages, with a very graphic art, to bring out the poetry and emotional force in these worlds.
Drum Room at first resembles an architectural study of a contemporary building. Magnificent shots feature great formal geometrical interiors that are strangely empty until young rock musicians appear, learning collectively to play solo. Few moving pictures have sought to film sound... Pennell lends movement and life to the venues thanks to audio and visual echoes in the musicians' movement. Movement (the drummer's drum sticks whirling against a blue background, miming the concentrated professional) is as important as the sound created by the instrument. She underscores that what is beautiful in a musical performance is also the physical presence of the musician and his or her way of occupying the space—sound as a shape that colors silence.
Pennell films the intimacy of human performance. In her documentary expeditions, the artist turns toward the strange and vast parallel universe of amateur dance in which the subjects are active outside the formal world of representation.
Pennell juggles the intimate and the distant. Even if the faces seem open to our eyes, thanks especially to the proximity of the close-up shot, the imagination haunting them remains beyond our grasp. The artist calls into question the relationship between the viewer and the subject. Viewers identify with the subject but can only struggle to guess at the inner world behind the face.
Each image, chosen with a sense of perfectionism, strikes viewers as an affirmation: "You only see what I show you." We don't always hear the sound that corresponds to the movement or the rhythm; we don't see the object that is catching the dancers' eyes.
Pennell's films and videos have been screened in independent cinemas and at gallery shows. She has received funding from the Arts Council England, Film London's Artists Film and Video Award, Channel 4 British Documentary Foundation, and BBC television. She has also won numerous prizes, including awards from the Ann Arbor Film Festival (USA 2004), the Cork International Film Festival (Ireland 2003) and the Grand Prix Video Danse (France 1997). In 2005 Pennell took the DIP Young Artist's Prize at Geneva's 11th Biennial of Moving Images with Fisticuffs (UK, 2004).