Afternoon Dust


Recent exhibitions at Grand Union

There seems to be something of a curtain theme going on at Birmingham art space Grand Union at the moment. First there was Maia Conran’s video projection Trace, a loop of swelling and falling lines that was inspired by curtains lifted by a breeze, but in its wall-length proportions came to resemble an abstract breathing architecture. Calming and hypnotic, the work’s expansion out from the wall was aided by the tendency of human perception to infer a three-dimensional space from the most tenuous of cues, a visual habit Conran also explored in her film performance Deep within the mirror we perceive a faint line. Whereas the latter work focused on the uncanniness of the spatial illusion, however, Trace retained the intimacy and the quietness of the situation that inspired it.

Jeremy Millar — XDO XOL

I wrote about Jeremy Millar’s film Daphne before, but his new work, showing as part of Whitstable Biennale 2014, feels bolder and more substantial. It features a flat, fog-covered landscape, a bog or fen, clay formations covered in shrubs. The only human presence is that of a solitary man, who sits quietly by a stream or shelters inside a derelict, abandoned concrete building. The film ruminates on the landscape and upon the actions of the man, which range from passive contemplation to patient, focused activity.

Whitstable Biennale 2014

Last weekend saw the opening of the 2014 edition of Whitstable Biennale, a festival of new visual art located in a quaint little Kentish coastal town. Having spent a couple of years living in Whitstable, helping out on the production team for the previous two editions of the Biennale, I was much looking forward to exploring this year’s festival as a punter. The main programme for 2014 seems bigger this time round, bolstered as usual by a healthy satellite strand.

Failing to see, or not: Hannah Rickards at Modern Art Oxford

While in Oxford for Audiograft festival I had the opportunity to visit Hannah Rickards’ solo exhibition at Modern Art Oxford. The show comprises various works made over the past decade related to meteorological phenomena — or rather, to different attempts to describe or otherwise represent experiences of such phenomena. In the film No, there was no red. (2009), people recount experiences of seeing aurorae, sometimes agreeing or disagreeing over the appropriateness or accuracy of particular descriptions, metaphors, or similes; Like sand disappearing or something (2013) is a multichannel audio installation of further (or the same?) attempts to describe and explain similar experiences.

What the senses understand: Recent works by Katie Paterson

I first came across artist Katie Paterson a few years ago when she made the streetlights along Deal Pier flicker in response to lightening storms for her work Streetlight Storm. Since then she has continued to make connections between ordinary, everyday objects and natural phenomena, ranging from nanomolecular technology to dead stars and quasars. In the process, she has developed close working relationships with scientists, often through residencies at leading research centres such as University College London’s Department of Astronomy and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The recent launch of two new works seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on her conceptually rigorous and aesthetically engaging practice.

Jeremy Millar — Daphne

I’ve been a bit useless with sharing my thoughts about things I’ve seen over the summer, but a couple of things stuck in my mind long enough for me to finally get round to writing about them. Jeremy Millar’s 18-minute film Daphne (2013), seen at the Turner Contemporary’s summer exhibition, was one of those memorable things. The film was shot in the Photographic Collection at the Warburg Institute in London, and consists of numerous very long shots of filing cabinets, potted plants, whitewashed pillars, and piles of artworks stacked on tables or leaning against walls. Occasionally a cardiganed arm or the top of a head is glimpsed as members of the Institute’s staff sort prints into piles, or quietly discuss some aspect of how the Daphne of the film’s title, a minor figure in Greek mythology, has been represented in art over the centuries.

Documenting the Possible: Field Recording as a Site of Desire

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at Caleb Kelly’s Sound Thoughts blog about the nature of field recording to which I’d like to draw attention. To summarise: the discussion centres around Chris Watson’s Ynys-hir Dawn Chorus recording, in which the morning calls of various birds and animals can be heard. Kelly argues that an edit Watson makes in order to cut out the sound of a passing military jet results in a less authentic field recording, because while it seeks to remove traces of human intervention in a natural soundscape, the edit is in fact itself a human intervention, altering the record of what is found.


Arboretum is a short film made with leaves and twigs from the Forest of Blean, a study for a forthcoming larger project on tree dieback. Enjoy!

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Cheriton Lights

The month of February is marked by the pagan festival of Imbolc and the Christian feast of Candlemas; both events are traditionally celebrated with candlelit processions, the light of the candles symbolising the returning warmth as winter wanes. Unfortunately a bitterly cold and snow-filled wind managed to blow away any rumours of spring throughout the weekend of the inaugural Cheriton Light Festival in East Kent, so it was good to see hundreds of people still brave the elements to enjoy two days of light-related art installations, a lantern parade, and a sculptural bonfire.