@ Five Years (London, UK)
A selection of recent film and video work by a variety of international artists, Noble Intent was an hour-long programme screened on a continuous loop at Five Years Gallery in October 2009. Typically, I left it to the last hour of the last day to make the ardous four-block walk to the gallery’s location in Regent Studios, East London. As such, I missed the work that had attracted me in the first place, Lost High Street – a video piece by Paul Rooney in which he re-contextualises a video shot on an Edinburgh tourist bus in 1987.
Curated by Michelle Deignan (whose own work was also represented), Noble Intent maintained a reasonably good standard across the works that I did manage to see, each underpinned by themes of temporal and/or spatial dislocation and the varying ability of individuals to manage their identities along a personal/public and local/global axis.
Amongst the strongest work was David Ferrando Giraut’s Cry Wolf (Making Of), an excellent reflexive examination of miscommunication, misunderstanding and misplaced aestheticism. A work that begins as a fairly matter-of-fact performance work – field recordings of wild wolf packs juxtaposed with the artist’s outdoor fake-blood-and-feathers posturing – changes dramatically when Giraut turns to the camera and begins describing the difficulties faced in articulating his own view of romanticised animal instincts and the power of both art and media. What seems to exist as a mesh of ideas laid bare by Giraut is altered dramatically when the police arrive and he is forced to explain why he is covered in blood, sitting in a forest talking to a video camera.
Another standout from Noble Intent was Anita Di Bianco’s Letters from the Unsuspecting, which punctuated the other, more rigorous (and occasionally tedious) explorations of temporal and spatial identity with a series of ‘readings’ filmed in forests and vacant industrial sites that apply a literary aspect to the romanticism of location and language. And the lyricism of Di Bianco’s work hints at another theme which underpins Noble Intent, the poetic evocation of disparate identities – an idea central to Michelle Deignan’s Ourland, a labyrinthine piece of self-reflexivity that investigates St Anne’s Park in Dublin by contrasting banal promotional-video factoidism with engaging debates about the nature of identity and the identity of nature.
The works of Naoko Takahashi and Uriel Orlow both aim to situate both artist and audience outside their usual comfort zones, forcing them to question ideas of identity in a ‘foreign’ context. Takahashi’s Good Morning At Night is an evocative documentation of the artist’s experiences whilst undertaking an artist-in-residence programme in the United Arab Emirates. Using impressionistic video images of the city at night and a self-reflexive voiceover, Takahashi explores her existence as a Japanese woman in opposition to this strange, unwelcoming environment.
In The Naked Palace, Uriel Orlow’s ‘foreign’ context is the abandoned palace of a former Chief of Benin City. Following a guided tour of what is a decidely un-touristic palace, Orlow’s piece begins as a rather frustrating stills and voiceover work but as the reality of what you are seeing begins to dawn, it presents an interesting comment on the politics of heritage and the inherent difficulties of post-colonial representation, neatly reflecting Deignan’s portrait of Dublin’s St Anne’s Park.
By investigating the difficulty of addressing personal experience in a global environment – or even global identity in a specifically local environment – Noble Intent provides an interesting, if hit-and-miss, snapshot of recent film and video work by artists that each seem to be deeply interested in the politics of communication and the (potentially) dislocating influence of attempting to apply temporal and spatial narratives on our otherwise contradictory lives. For the artists that made up this programme, this ‘noble intent’ allows for the investigation – via art – of multiplicity and personal divergence.