Jerwood Awards @ CCA

Alice May Williams misses the mark, while Karen Kramer's Jerwood presentation is thoughtful and affecting.

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 04 Jul 2016

Two films by Alice May Williams and one by Karen Kramer are showcased in Borrowed Time, this year’s Jerwood Prize exhibition at CCA. Williams begins with An Unreliable Witness, featuring a 1959 radio interview of Williams’ grandmother, born in 1865. Shots of London are punctuated by different texts acting as footnotes of relevant historical events.

There are moments of soft humour, and the repeated phrase 'It was the present moment' appears on screen with each reminiscence, but it’s a conventional narrative with straightforward visuals of central London.

In the next video, there are shots of Battersea Power Station, near where Williams’ grandmother lived. Accompanied by a description of a mindfulness meditation session, it then quickly becomes a rundown of 20th century history, accompanied by archival and computer generated imagery.

Its impassioned listing of contemporary social problems takes its cue from topical marketing, but without operative self-reflection. Combining this with slow pans of construction sites with little hi-vis figures, there’s little critical content or visual interest.

Karen Kramer’s The Eye that Articulates Belongs on Land is divided into a series of atmospheric movements. Still on power stations, Kramer looks to the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor: in one part, the camera picks out little bits of debris during a survey of the interior, followed by a sequence of animated keys and souvenirs talking to each other, poetically addressing the disaster that left the surrounding areas uninhabitable.

Kramer’s enquiry into non-recent disaster is atmospheric and inventive – for example, using the unexpected device of a CGI-animated dead fox. It’s bolstered by the installation: a strip light and speaker set behind the screen make the mysterious film glare outwards, thereby bringing a welcome and necessary material and filmic deftness to the two-person show.

Jerwood/FVU Awards at the CCA until 10 Jul