Friday 19 October 2007
Hyperlink - Gallery
Photo taken at the Frith Street Gallery, visited on the recommendation of Planethalder, whose enthusiastic, discriminating consumption of a wide range and huge number of our city's cultural and culinary attractions daunts me, and sends me to seek out some lovely things. This lovely thing was an exhibition of work by Tacita Dean, impressive and beautiful wall-size photomontages of trees and a couple of works on film - her usual form in recent years, and most especially her film of poet Michael Hamburger in his East Anglian domain, as visited by the narrator of W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn.
This, and still below of Michael Hamburger, from Tacita Dean's film
It is a haunting, meditative evocation of the old poet, who died a few months after he was filmed, the light and the wind through his house, garden and beloved apple trees. I sometimes wonder, in my literal way, what makes a film a piece of visual art rather than a work of cinema, but not in this case. Lacking any narrative arc, it's edited to play as a seamless loop. You only know you're back at the point where you parted the heavy black curtain and groped your way into the viewing room when you recognise an image already seen - a long shot of an old-fashioned lamp in silhouette that slowly impinged as I shuffled towards a chair.
A slow-keeps-coming-at-you-on-a-meandering-loop-that-you-can-enter-anywhere, like Sebald's writing.
Standing out against the quiet: the strong, declarative tones of the poet, reading a poem he wrote for his friend Ted Hughes not long after his death, which evokes the tree he grew from the pips of an apple from Hughes' garden. A link with a friend now gone. He strokes the apple, reaches for the book to read... achingly present, and now he too is gone.
So glad I saw this, followed a link and liked what I saw and went to see. The online world of endless hyperlinks, the time you end up wasting by following just one more: it's frightening and depressing, but also often leads to unsuspected riches. And the habit of persistence in following just one more link overflows into off-line life. To find the gallery - so tastefully minimalist that its name is only to be seen carved in the wall, well above eye level - took two turns and more around the square, then entering a cafe and asking.