Diana Brighouse is a doctor turned artist in a grand tradition.
She’s currently completing an MA at the University of Chichester in the UK.
Her work is intensely thoughtful and thought through and also often very beautiful.
I’m not always keen on artist commentaries on their own work but what she sent
me is a model of clarity so I’ll reproduce it in full here.
‘The underlying stimulus for my work is to challenge the reductive philosophy
that prevails in Western society today.
I believe that reductionism is manifest through a prioritising of scientific
or quantitative methodology. An unquestioning belief in the measurable is
found not only in science and technology, but also in education, medicine
I believe that the supremacy of the measurable can be directly related not
only to the political and financial threats to the arts, but also to the
regressive attitudes towards women and the disabled.
Successive postgraduate university educations in medicine, spirituality,
psychotherapy and art have repeatedly challenged the certainties I have
My use of digital video (a quantitative binary process) to produce images
that I believe to be non-reductive reflects the paradoxes created by my
There are multiple possible interpretations of the videos depending on
the background of the viewer. This is deliberate and hopefully supports
my non-reductive thesis.
These videos are part of a series investigating reflections; a second
series that I am also currently working on investigates shadows.
My intention is that this series will be more politically orientated.
My videos are taken in my garden and edited with Sony Vegas Platinum 11.0HD.’
We’ll have another of these beautiful works next week.
Here are two clips from videos featured in the excellent Subversion show,
featuring artists from the Arabic speaking world, currently on (to 5th June) at
It is carefully, elegantly and thoughtfully curated by Omar Kholeif, who writes:
“Like many of the artists I was looking at, I felt that collectively
curators and writers associated with the politically unstable Arab world were
being asked to step up and perform to an identity that the world wanted us to play.
With Subversion my aim was to do just the opposite. I worked with artists who
referenced this very language but who wanted to dissent, poke fun, critique
and re-define themselves as artists of the imagination, and not of any specific
social or political condition.”
It has to be said that this bending of the stick is eminently successful – none
of the works included has any taint of tokenism, they are rich with a poetry,
humour and humanity that cuts entirely across any notional cultural divide.
Where they do focus upon political subject matter (and one should not form the
impression that this is a show with, in any sense whatsoever, its political teeth pulled)
what delights is the richness and the playfulness with which this is done.
Larrisa Sansour’s “A Space Exodus” is both gentle and devastating.
Gentle, the Sansour persona (and we’ll have another piece of hers next week)
presented in the work, with the rather stylish space suit, the wistful smile and wave
towards the far away earth, having planted the Palestinian flag on the moon:
–“That’s one small step for Palestinians, one giant leap for mankind”.
Devastating when one sets this gentleness by the side of what we know of the Apartheid
wall, the illegal settlements, punishment demolition of Palestinian homes &c.
(Anyone who doubts the piece’s political impact should take a look at the vile racism
of some of the comments on the YouTube posting of this clip
- “Send all the Palestinians to the moon” &c.)
The other piece featured here is from the Gazan twins Ahmed and Mohamed Abu Nasser,
known professionally as “Tarzan and Arab”.
Although (in a disarming interview in which they come across a bit like a smiley
and un-terminally-corroded-by-snotty-cynicism younger version of the Chapmans)
they assert the piece is in some sense about internecine Palestinian conflict,
to me it reads more like a balletic paean of love to the cinema, to the
moving image (including perhaps the video game too – what do you think?).
Until last year Tarzan and Arab had never been to a cinema and have largely
been unable to attend screenings of their own works abroad.
In fact their first works, also shown at Cornerhouse, were old style film posters
for non-existent movies, all given titles from the names of Israeli military
operations: Defensive Shield, Cast Lead &c.(as, indeed, their film has too).
There is a great deal more to this show, which covers diverse geographical slices
of the Arabic speaking world and where therefore the interaction between life
and art has a different tempo and character to the works by the Palestinian
artists discussed here.
And it’s all great – I don’t have space here to properly do the whole thing justice.
In particular, though, I do want to mention Akram Zaatari’s two luminously beautiful
films set in the milieu of gay life in Beirut – though again to outline them thus,
in one line, in terms of “topic”, is to oversimplify – we must distinguish between
ostensible topics and the dense, lyric and dazzling poetry which they engender.
Also Khaled Hafez’s wonderful short “On Presidents and Superheroes”
(yet another political context, that of a staggeringly prescient augury of a victorious
but still contested Egyptian revolution) but I simply am going to just mention it as I
hope to write something a little bit more extended about it when I post a clip here (soon!).
If you possibly can, do yourself a big favour and go and see this show; give
yourself plenty of time, there’s a lot to see and some of the moving image work
is quite lengthy (and hats off to Omar Kholeif for achieving installations of
works that are appropriate, thought provoking and, somewhat banally but importantly at my age, comfortable.)
If you’re travelling from out of town (and I urge you so to do, dear reader, I urge you)
you can also catch the tremendous Roger Ballen show at the Manchester Art gallery,
which is a whole other story.
I’ll be returning to Subversion both here and in a somewhat more extended piece
of writing for MIRAJ next year.
We’ve posted Toby Tatum’s work
before and it’s work with a definite charge to it and ambitious too.
I think this piece is more wholly successful than its predecessor but I’m still not totally convinced.
It’s something to do with the aim of conjuring a very precise & particular
dream-world which strikes me as an all-eggs-in-one-basket kind of approach,
in that the tiniest false note disrupts the sought for spell.
Therefore Tatum creates a very high bar indeed for himself and his performers.
If one compares similarly oneiric work by Cocteau, Lynch or Hadžihalilović,
however dense and rich the atmosphere gets, there is variation with humour
or banality preparing us for more poetry to come and somehow too, framing it,
setting it off.
That sounds more critical that I want to be for this is, in every respect, a
very nicely realised and haunting piece.
Next week, or the week after, we’ll post an interview with Tatum about his work.
“Here is a video I made a few months ago.
It’s a recitation of Shakespeare’s #135th sonnet.
In the background are Dexter Dalwood’s paintings,
which are collaged from other famous paintings.
The piece engages ideas of appropriation and identity.”
A beauty by Will Goss.
As I Looked Up (2011, 32MB, 2:23 min)
A co-director of the formidable Furtherfield, Ruth Catlow charms
and something more – something to do with the urgency and vulnerability
of performance and the importance of memory, of a sense of place – in this
fragile & lovely elaboration of an Ivor Cutler song.
Things its difficult to put your finger on but which go right to our core;
pointing to - literally singing – those things being in the ‘artist’ job description…
First of three. Two more pieces, just as delicate, just as necessary, to come.
And mentioning Curt Cloninger, as we did on Friday last, it’s nice to report he has made
a new video which is both gorgeous and engimatic, with a musicality which stems
not only from the actual sounds but the video’s very construction, that repeated
wistful, strange, ‘Portrait of the Artist’, title motif…
Cloninger is someone (Eddie Whelan the other who springs to mind) who has thoroughly incorporated
data-moshing as an expressive tool into their vocabulary, defying reports of its early death.
PS And just in passing – I’m fascinated by movies like this one, for which it’s very difficult
to create an adequate poster image.
Data-moshing is a particularly dynamic form of moving image work
where the motion is like the Cheshire Cat’s grin.
It’s not just data-moshing – it happens elsewhere.
It’s like some movies are, in some sense, “further away” in the line of image kinship
with the still.
“Experimental film and sound collage with a spoken poem
about embodying a moth”
As you do, as you do…
Another piece of strange & haunting loveliness from Simon Mclennan*.
*I completely screwed up posting this last week – I prepared the post &
went on vacation for a few days forgetting to actually upload the only
copy of the movie we had, on my home machine, to the server. Arrgh!
Big apologies to Simon & here it is all working properly now.