In his writing on the practice of Expanded Cinema, Malcolm Le Grice refers to the distinction between narrative and spectator time that is embedded within the moving image. Le Grice draws a parallel ‘between the way perspective fixes the spectator into a single viewpoint on the visual scene and the way a narrative fixes the spectator into a single linear chain of events’. Both narratological and perspectival rupture is the overarching subject of narrative project’s inaugural exhibition at its new space: a new body of work by artist Rachel Lowe.
Comprising collage, installation and video, the exhibition draws its viewer into an unsteady relationship to time and the depicted moment. On entering the first of the gallery’s two spaces, a metronomic beat quietly leaks out of a monitor’s headphones on the ground; a feeble echo that attempts to regulate the images on the walls with its clock-ticking linear determinism. In this work, titled ‘Abstract Inversion’ (2013), Lowe presents four perspectives of a single image that serve to undermine the regularity of the beat through the erratic succession of each version. Sound and image are placed at a disjuncture, which becomes the framework from which the surrounding works depart.
Through its inherent actions of cutting, extracting and layering already existing source material, the process of collage has a natural connection to temporality. In works such as ‘Iris’ Nos. 1, 2, and 3 (2011-12) and ‘Portrait’ (2013), Lowe’s process relies on a reformation of found imagery from a variety of sources and past moments. The cut or the tear intimates a breaking of the source away from its temporal inscription. Memory is fragmented and brought into a new, present reality.
The rhythmic beat of ‘Abstract Inversion’ becomes a corresponding permeation with the visual pulsing of ‘Analogue Interface (Fifteen Heads)’ (2015) in the adjacent gallery: an installation of collage and projection that Lowe constructed out of torn photocopies left over on the floor of her studio. Fifteen ‘portraits’ are galvanised into a disturbing flicker through projection over layers of X-ray-like sheets depicting absent subjects. Unlike an X-ray, however, these images deny the spectator an exposure. As Lowe herself comments, there remains within the work both “something’ and ‘nothing’”; the excision of the original subject that formed part of the indexical image allows for new content to be brought forward, one of tone, texture, and shadow.
Lowe’s success lies in her ability to access a myriad of viewpoints and, through sonic and visual movements, the exhibition becomes a gradual undoing of linearity from a distinct to a confused multiplicity. In opposition to the single perspective and composite imagery that Le Grice was similarly countering, Lowe expands and extrapolates her source material across an unstable temporal spectrum, one that questions perception and our habits of looking.