Anna Barham – Double Screen (not quite tonight jellylike), Site Gallery

Text by Tim Barnes

 

Anna Barham’s new video installation, Double Screen: Not Quite Tonight Jellylike, 2013, stirs a space invigorated with the presence and activity of an arduous process. It is a chamber of changes where the implementation of language, visual and audible, is rigorously re-examined and our comprehension can only fluctuate between the sound and screens, following its alterations in a fruitless attempt to grasp something rational or meaningful.

 

Two large monolithic panels are animated with a sequence of found images mixed with video footage and these visuals appear in succession, synchronised with Barham’s voice. The images fall onto the screens as though plucked out of the air and they slide into frame from all sides, sweeping across, moving through space from one screen to another.

 

Barham’s voice reads from a text that has been processed and re-processed through voice recognition software creating inaccurate computer miscopies of her original script. It is these texts that Barham then re-reads and records to accompany the visual material in the installation. This whole process is repeated over and over with alterations occurring continually in each one of a long series of videos.

 

This video enjoys a departure from its screens and the gallery feels like the inside of a camera or darkroom where, through a technical process, something is being developed. There is perhaps no end result here but an ongoing procedure, as though Barham is continually splitting spectrums in search of secret or primitive links between different methods of communication, revelling in the slippages that emerge.

 

The space between the two screens seems somehow significant as material appears to travel through it. The screens, being placed some distance apart, require the viewer to make a small movement or gesture, not dissimilar to spectators of a tennis match who move their heads from side to side as they follow the ball across the court. This too is an interesting element of the piece, the attentive listener and watcher perhaps completes a circle in the receiving of this piece. The shadows of visitors are allowed to fall onto the screens and there can be a profound awareness of oneself within this installation.

 

Cleverly, through activity like this, the installation invites viewers to enter into a sort of aesthetic position or an interactive exchange wherein they are invited to consider themselves as an active participant.

 

Barham’s installation seems perfectly content to reside in a rift of its own. Her material, spoken words and moving images are collected and conjoined together as though to construct a barricade on the infrastructure and systems of language, an assemblage of component fragments which, when brought together, might either obscure or reveal hidden correlations between visual and oral language.

 

There is a deliberate but also playful merging of voices as Barham, and her laborious computer process perform a compelling, dissonant duet between body and machine.

 

Anna Barham – Double Screen (not quite tonight jellylike) continues at Site Gallery, Sheffield until 8 February 2014.

 

Tim Barnes is an artist and writer based in Sheffield.