In this collaborative work, Amelia Bande, Deborah Bower, Annette Knol and Mat Fleming deliver an oscillating field of colour, form and text that mediates the subconscious and holds the viewer in a meditative state. This is their latest contribution to the Gel Film series, which foregoes the camera and instead physically constructs an animated narrative with vibrant coloured gels.
Within the exhibition space, 16mm projectors flank two slide projectors. The pace of the work is set by the rhythmic progression of a narrative text, with each fizzing hue rendered concrete and stable by the comforting construct of language. The text is the result of the artists’ practice of automatic writing. Given a start phrase they wrote non-stop, allowing a stream of conscious, or subconscious, that reveals the everyday and the existential. The resulting four stories were compiled and edited into a single text by Amelia Bande, allowing the collective preoccupations of artists to punctuate the installation.
“I hope it snows, I hope it snows properly.”
“We live on a spherical planet; even straight lines cause something like a ball of wool.”
“And I think, how did it all end so bad?”
The childish wants and impulses leading into the narrative are built and developed through witty inferences and an overhaul of the placidity and naivety of youth. Rather than it being a collection of dissociated utterances, it is evidence of a collective encounter with desire, tempered by the reality of everyday life. In his writings on automatic writing, Théodore Flournoy described it as the result of “romances of the subliminal imagination, derived largely from forgotten sources”, and he and his contemporaries such as Freud, identified the similar experiences seen in studies of spiritism, occultism and the emerging discipline of psychology. The buried sources that feed the text in ‘Nervous Skies’ act as a compelling reflection of the contemporary subconscious, full of idiosyncrasies and normality in equal measure.
The text is visualised through the coloured gel strips that are over laid onto 16mm film. They give a sense of end of reel abstraction, with spots of imperfection and stroboscopic pulsations drawing the eye and further adding rhythm to the installation. Acting as scenic backdrop to the narrative unfolding, the coloured projections also have a landscape quality to them and occasionally slide into geometric figuration, compounding the storytelling element and delivering a flickering constructivist collage.
‘Nervous Skies’ gently prompts viewers to align themselves with a kaleidoscopic investigation into the subconscious. Fluctuating between the real, imagined, concrete and intangible, its power is owed as much to the subtlety of delivery, as the incisive text structuring the installation.