Lis Rhodes @ Tramway
Just seven works represent Lis Rhodes’ forty-year career in the exhibition Dissonance and Disturbance at Tramway, on tour from ICA, London. Rhodes’ radical and experimental films urge the viewer to reconsider film as a medium of communication.
After watching the mind-blowing Dresden Dynamo (1972), the heavy curatorial edit seems more reasonable – especially if you’re going to watch every film with the same rapt attention. Made without a camera by applying Letratone, a kind of transfer for applying tone to illustrations, to the 16mm film reel, the dizzying coloured patterns pulsating onscreen are a visual representation of the atonal noise of the soundtrack.
On the same reel, Light Reading (1978) assembles various elements – letters, numbers, scissors, documentary footage and a woman’s voice narrating. Repetition, rapid-fire editing and unnerving close-ups bring these together to imply a kind of narrative, but the prominence of form overrides the narrative itself.
Both films convey the sense that you must pay acute attention to each frame in order to get the meaning. Shown consecutively, they constitute an essay or demonstration of a progression in experimental thinking. The ‘language of looking’ is so persuasively put across that you bring the same way of looking to the rest of the show, too.
A two-screen installation presents three works centred around political protests, one providing a shared soundtrack. Despite a formal setup akin to the other works, the heightened awareness to form you have by now might tend to inhibit your appreciation of the specific content.
Altogether, the show is extremely coherent but demonstrates that sometimes, bulking out is good. Were there a few more works to interrupt your finely honed way of looking, you might not come to each one like such a rapt and eager pupil, ready for instruction. [Jac Mantle]