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The art of Randy Thom

 Sound designer (FW35)

Double Visions, Double Frames

Catherine Fowler

Double Visions, Double Frames
In different ways, the essays in this issue of Art in-Sight make a plea for a reading of the present which holds on to the past or, to paraphrase Sheila Rowbotham, they see “the past as before us while the future is behind us.”1 This way of seeing is not so much tinged with nostalgia, as a vision doubled in both focus and frame (critical and literal). Generally, the past here is cinema theory and practice, which should be seen as the back-story to contemporary gallery films and experimental work.

The path that extends from the expanded cinema of the 1960s and 70s to gallery films of today has been well travelled, but few have charted that journey in theoretical or conceptual detail (see Jackie Hatfield). This may be because contemporary work, with its passion for the pictorial (and fictional, and narrative) could be seen to restore to the frame everything that expanded cinema (for example) had so carefully avoided. It would be easy then to suggest that contemporary gallery films have turned their back on this past, and to critically do the same, yet if we keep the past before us, in view, then each new moment is transformed by this double vision.

A one and a two
Bridges between past and future (as mentioned by Maeve Connolly) are invaluable for the way they help us to seize the present as it unfurls. Such is the effect of a recent gallery film by Breda Beban: I Can’t Make You Love Me (2003, 8 mins) a diptych which forms one quarter of her recent Film and Video Umbrella commissioned show (shown at Southampton John Hansard gallery and Newlyn Art gallery and Wolverhampton Art gallery). At Southampton I Can’t Make You Love Me was set up so that as we walk in to the room we are confronted by two huge screens in a v shape so that their two inner most sides were pointing inwards (like an open book). A woman (Breda) is on the left hand screen and a man (’the artist’s former British lover’) is on the right. Both sit behind tables facing out towards us so that though they should be talking to each other they are, in fact, looking at us. The mise en scene is highly formal: the tables form horizontal planes across the space and these are then echoed by the camera work which tracks from left to right across each of the sitters. The effect is such that the man and woman travel simultaneously across the frame to the center, vanishing together then re-appearing. The ‘couple’ (because they are ‘two’ rather than because they are together) have recently split up and the woman is now trying to find out what went wrong, the man begins: ‘what’s this about?’