If you were told you had to spend two hours in a darkened room in an art gallery watching a video art creation slowly unfold most people would baulk at the idea and say no way. Yet we happily submit ourselves on a regular basis to watching unmemorable and anodyne film fare at our local multiplex.
I’ve calculated that I have spent the best part of two working days watching the Summer Blockbuster offerings from Hollywood these last few months. Being honest I cannot remember a single scene or piece of memorable dialogue from any of them.
In contrast I can remember whole sequences, vivid images, or lines of narration from the artist Willie Doherty’s recent film installation ‘Secretion’ at the Annex space of IMMA at Earlsfort Terrace. I can still visualise his strangely sad and disturbing scenes of decaying vegetation in winter ponds and streams. Haunting views of abandoned industrial sites reminiscent of a Ballard novel, or slow creepy close-ups of fungal-covered wallpaper in derelict houses.
Beautifully and carefully assembled, there was throughout the narrated film, a sense of the uncanny. That uncomfortable irritant or sense of foreboding that someone or something was always lurking just out of the camera frame. The sonorous voice of Matthew Jennings carried the accompanying narrarion that begins with the words when “The trees started dying” through to a dystopian conclusion.
It was twenty minutes spent watching a film in a darkened room that provided more stimulus than all the super mega-bucket popcorn deals at the local moviedrone.
‘Secretion’ Willie Doherty/IMMA
(The darkened space offers many avenues to explore. Artist Emily Wardill utilised the inherent claustrophobia to powerful effect in her film ‘Diamond/Descartes’ Daughter’ – http://lux.org.uk/collection/works/diamond-descartes-daughter. Luke Fowler explores the overlooked beauty in everyday soundscapes: http://lux.org.uk/collection/works/grammar-listening-part-1)