There Is No Rewind @ Talbot Rice

Review by Alex Kuusik | 21 Oct 2013

Within the darkened Neoclassical interior of the Georgian gallery a single projector screen stands before a scattering of candlelit tables. It shows the familiar, if now obsolete image of a digitised test card, which for the duration of the evening will be in control. Its vocoder provides a crackled introduction to the three hours of video, performance and sound that proceed. A devotion, of sorts, to Nam June Paik's creative vision of technology.

There are some standout works. One is a performance by Ed Atkins titled Depression, in which a blue face-masked figure chews on the term's ambivalence, flipping between its various physical and emotional meanings. His broken monologue is punctuated by snippets of audio and moments of darkly humorous distanciation.

The body on stage is embedded within the screen – a theme concurrent with a number of works, perhaps as a strategy to provide the increasingly ubiquitous status of video with a physical aspect. For example, in Herland, a new work by Michelle Hannah, a silhouette behind the screen emerges from the shadows as a familiarly miserable fragment of How Soon is Now becomes gradually clearer. Its murmurs of adolescent angst are recast as an eerie mantra. Craig Mulholland's Before the Law (After Kafka) involves a similar interface between performer/video. A masked figure, stiffly clad in a linen blazer, stands before a crackling visualisation of Kafka's parable. Its bleak coda, in which the gate finally closes on the figure, marks a dystopic moment within Nam June Paik's creative vision.

Elsewhere, the programme seems oddly balanced. Jillian Mayer's videos seem an almost obligatory nod to the exhausted end of 'post-net' faddishness, while the inclusion of Stockhausen's Connection provides a contrastingly historical voice. One that recalls nostalgic avant-gardism via Paik's Fluxus heyday.

A tired crowd leaves to the hum of static. Overloaded, perhaps. Confused and unable to rewind. [Alex Kuusik]