FACT (Foundation for Art and Technology) Liverpool`

FACT

88 Wood Street

Liverpool L1 4DQ


Meiro Koizumi
My Voice Would Reach You (single channel version), 2009
HD video installation, 16 min 45 sec

This video piece is tucked away in a corner near the entrance lobby of FACT. If you are lucky enough to notice it you are rewarded with an intimate and fascinating private eavesdrop on a telephone conversation. The bench provided allows for only 3 viewers at a time thus making it quite an exclusive experience even though it is situated in the hustle and bustle of the entrance area with the comings and goings of the public, the queues of cinema goers waiting for tickets and the casual visitors looking for information leaflets. The conflict with incidental noise and extraneous movement could be seen as a negative but, considering the context of the film, a telephone call made in a busy Tokyo street, actually enhances the subject matter.

The video itself is in three sections beginning with a centrally placed, well dressed male figure talking on his mobile phone. It is a common sight, one we witness every day; someone having a conversation in a public place with an unseen person whose voice we cannot hear. This stationary figure seems unaware of the busy world of the street he is occupying. People rush by and the noise of passing traffic invades, but the man continues his conversation regardless. Subtitles relay the spoken word to the viewer and we come to a gradual realisation that his mother is the recipient of the phone call. It is a tender conversation full of touching, personal moments. He is trying to persuade her to join him for a weekend treat at a spa, a recognised symbol of status within Japanese culture. It seems that money is an issue and he reassures her by saying that she should not worry about the cost. It is obvious that he cares deeply about his mother and wishes to make her happy by reaching out to her in this way, even becoming tearful in his insistence.

We leave this street scene for the second section of the video which concerns a letter written to his mother. The subtitled voiceover again provides the narrative explaining that this is the first letter he’s ever written to his mother, which sounds curious until you realise that there is no reason to write letters in this age of ever increasing means of communication. The text is accompanied by photographs of mother and child as we become privy to a precious memory of a bicycle trip that was disrupted by a punctured tyre and an impromptu visit to the woods to eat rice cakes. We also hear about the sandwiches that his mother prepared for him for his school lunch. At the time they were a source of embarrassment for the young boy as his school friends’ sandwiches had much more interesting fillings such as scrambled egg and sausage. With hindsight the grown man now appreciates the thought and effort his mother put into this food and he realises that they were the best sandwiches. This letter ends “You’ve gone to a place where this letter can never be delivered, I knew somehow my voice would reach you” It is at this point that we come to the full realisation that his mother is, in fact, dead.

Now we return to the street scene with the grown man talking on his mobile phone. Initially we believe that this is a repeat of the beginning of the video, so closely does his speech resemble what we have already witnessed. Of course it now takes on a poignant air as we know that he can’t be talking to his mother since she is dead. The piece takes another twist as we now hear the responses of the person on the other end of the line. He has actually phoned a call centre and the recipient of the call is trying to make sense of the strange disconnected conversation. Politely, but insistently, the person attempts to address the issues of the caller but is totally confused by the personal nature of the conversation, in particular the offer of a weekend away. Several call centre employees are treated to this phone call and each one tries to explain that they cannot help the caller, one actually states “I’m afraid I am not your mother”. At once comic and tragic you feel that the bereaved man is using this phone call in an attempt at catharsis. If he can voice his feelings towards his mother maybe he can achieve closure. He ends by saying goodbye to his dead mother and the video closes with atmospheric organ music reminiscent of a funeral service.

It could be said that this singular piece encapsulates the theme of the whole 2010 Biennial, “Touched”. Meiro Koizumi’s understated video is certainly touching and moving and its message is bound to connect with every viewer. Its universal story transcends cultural boundaries, making it the most affecting work of the Biennial.

Minouk Lim
The Weight of Hands, 2010
HD video and sound, single-dash projection, 10 min
Supported by Arts Council Korea and SAMUSO, Seoul
Courtesy of the artist and Gallery PLANT, Seoul
Commissioned by FACT and Liverpool Biennial 2010 for Touched

This mysterious video piece is projected onto the wall of a confined, dark space. Using heat sensitive cameras to film the action we cannot clearly access the performance taking place as the glowing acid colours distort and blur our perception. The most obvious reading is one of surveillance but who is watching who? We see a group of strangely attired people on a coach arriving at some kind of industrial or construction site. These insubstantial anonymous figures progress slowly and their theatrical demeanour is heightened by a solo voice singing a doleful song. They appear as lost wandering souls dislocated in space and time. Where do they belong? Why are they here? Why should we care about them? It is difficult to relate to these people or their situation, especially since they do not seem to relate to one another. They move as a group but each is isolated, the only moment they work together is when they physically use their hands to support the singer by passing her body along the length of the coach.

Setting aside any intended social or political context the video is testament to colour, movement and sound. Taken on face value it could be read merely on the same terms as an 80s music video, such as “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie. It is difficult to reconcile the given text regarding this piece with the video itself.

Tehching Hsieh
One Year Performance 1980-1981.
16mm film, time cards, photographs, time clock and other documentation materials.
Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

The whole of the ground floor gallery at Fact is devoted to the documentation of this one year performance. The amazing array of photographs, which stretches across all four walls of the space, is testament to Tehching Hsieh’s dedication to his chosen task-to photograph himself on the hour, every hour, for an entire year! It takes some time to grasp the enormity of this feat. You could be forgiven for suspecting some form of deception is taking place but, such is the artist’s attention to detail, he begins on day one with a completely shaven head. The gradual process of the re-growing of his hair is evidence that we are facing an insane performance which manages to be small in terms of scale and focus but enormous in terms of significance. The “mistakes” in the display, where he failed to take a photograph at the appropriate time, serve to emphasise the impossibility of his self imposed regime whilst also reinforcing our wonderment at his sheer dedication as the hours passed away for an entire year. You feel compelled to stand in awe at this documented display and give it due consideration, almost as if you should acknowledge the time it took to produce. The meticulous nature of the display mirrors his machine like performance.

Tehching Hsieh’s expressionless face and utilitarian uniform belie his repetitive enterprise as he punches his hourly clock card then takes a photo as evidence. A 16mm film of the collection of photographs is endlessly projected playing like a modern day stop-frame animation, the whirring noise of the projector filling the space with an audible marker of the swift passage of time.

This is a piece about confinement, but not solely in terms of time. Ultimately this is a confinement within space, as he is metaphorically chained to the clock as we all are due to the patterns of our contemporary society. However, it is worth noting that this piece is 30 years old and you can’t help wondering what significance it brings to a Biennial in 2010.

Kaarina Kaikkonen
Hanging On to Each Other, 2010
Collected used clothing

Moving into the atrium area of Fact we encounter this, supposedly, site specific installation by Kaarina Kaikkonen. Using donated items of clothing from Liverpool residents Kaikkonen has created a hanging sculpture which is raised high above the head of the viewer. The clothes are arranged according to colour i.e. darker colours near the base receding to lighter colours towards the top. The gallery text informs us that the sculpture takes the shape of the hull of a ship, thus reflecting the maritime heritage of Liverpool. Since this is not immediately apparent this notion seems like an afterthought or an attempt at adding more weight to this piece than it deserves. The sculpture certainly makes good use of the open space of the atrium but fails to convey ideas of personal memory. Neither does this display of clothing act as “a basic symbol of healing, care and unconditional love” as stated in the official Biennial Guide.

Yves Netzhammer
Dialogical Abrasion, 2010
3D animation, sculptural installation, sound
Courtesy of the artist and Anita Beckers Gallery, Frankfurt
Commissioned by FACT and Liverpool Biennial 2010 for Touched

Occupying Gallery 2 is this mysterious work by Swiss artist Yves Netzhammer which consists of a maze of narrow passageways interrupted by small scale installations. The whole room is thrown into darkness which is interspersed by random illuminations in selected areas, one at a time, revealing hidden objects and displays within. For example, an elaborate readymade sculpture of a pair of shoes whose laces transcend their functionality by creating architectural descriptors of their situation in relation to floor, ceiling and walls.

Within this nightmarish labyrinth is located Netzhammer’s 3D animation which corresponds exactly with the scenario created by the physicality of this space. Figures in the style of test crash dummies are smashed, broken, pulled, thrown and even shot at in multiple scenarios. Devoid of human emotion and feeling, it makes a cold and slightly uncomfortable watch. The nonlinear narrative within the video chops and jumps but simultaneously corresponds with the physical surroundings which the viewer assumes relates to the animation and vice versa.

A sense of clinical precision, underlined with a sinister unease is maintained throughout. Grey and sterile you feel you’ve stumbled across a strange experimental lab and just maybe you are the subject matter. Your attention is distracted towards loud crashing metallic noises which seem to be randomly generated throughout the gallery as Bernd Schurer’s atmospheric soundscape interferes with your attempts to extract a coherent and logical reading. The project/experiment is inexplicable leaving you disorientated and confused which is obviously Netzhammer’s intention.

The theme “Touched” is explored to a greater or lesser extent by each of the pieces in the Fact section of the Biennial. Taken in its literal sense Minouk Lim’s “The Weight of Hands” would seem to fit the bill entirely by virtue of the fact that it concerns the sense of touch. But by far the most satisfying piece remains Meiro Koizumi’s video “My voice would reach you”. The memory of this affecting narrative lingers in the mind, touching our sensibilities and colouring our world.

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~ by looopart on May 18, 2011.