Liz Shannon, 'On the record' (The List, 28/05/2009)

‘I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking …’ So begins Christopher Isherwood’s novel Goodbye To Berlin. While the book is now most famous as the inspiration for the musical Cabaret, the new exhibition of artists’ films at Sorcha Dallas takes its title and inspiration from these opening lines. The show includes a range of historical and contemporary artists who have used film to capture and transform ordinary, everyday life, and includes acclaimed Glasgow artist Kate Davis’ first work on film.

‘I chose the quote as it seems to best reflect the concept of the show,’ says curator Dallas. ‘All the artists use the ordinary, but through it being “developed, carefully printed, fixed” – as Isherwood’s quote goes on to say – it becomes altered and transformed. I also liked the fact that it suggests filmmaking to be an act of recording; often remotely observing everyday acts, which are then transformed through the process itself.’

This filmic transformation is often achieved through technology, such as image processing, stop framing and animation. ‘There is a definite interest in a collage approach to filmmaking,’ says Dallas. ‘It is a common theme running through all the artists’ works – whether it is the cut-out and hand-drawn element in Katy Dove’s films or the scratched and dancing line of Len Lye’s. However, the works are much more dense then this: the building up and layering of the image is complex, and – other than Lye’s upbeat jazz soundtrack – there is a definite crescendo that happens with the accompanying soundtracks.’

Abstraction is another unifying factor. ‘All the artists’ works have an element of abstraction,’ says Dallas. ‘For example, Lye’s line works beautifully seen next to the built-up line that appears in Kate Davis’ work, but it also has a connection to the strobed and repeated lines in Dove’s animations.

‘Craig Mulholland’s use of real objects, particularly in “Nil Orally”, which he alters via digital techniques, has an obvious connection with Steina and Woody Vaulka’s work, but some of the more abstract forms also echo those featured in “Motorhead” by Dove. It is these slippages that I find most exciting and intriguing.

‘The viewer will draw their own conclusions and connections too.’

The gallery will be a noisier place than usual, as sound is often as integral to the works as the visual component. The films will be screened one after the other, with a total duration of about 30 minutes. ‘Ideally the viewer will be able to sit and watch them all,’ says Dallas. ‘I am also planning a resource room which will have publications, information and some relevant documentaries. I hope visitors will take time with the films and extra information, to fully immerse themselves in the project.’

While Liza Minnelli might not be belting out any numbers in fishnets and a bowler hat, the films chosen for I Am a Camera promise to be just as compelling, and infinitely more unusual.

Subject Exhibition

I am a Camera, Sorcha Dallas, Glasgow
With: Kate Davis, Katy Dove, John Latham, Len Lye, Craig Mulholland, …