One + One 2010

One + One is a three-part work currently in production. Part 1 is a single-screen video work titled One + One (The Film). Part 2, One + One (The Reading), was a one-off public live performance made while on residency at The Rea Garden in Birmingham (hosted by artist group Behind Closed Doors) and a subsequent video work. The final part of the sequence will consist of a further video work titled One + One (The Song).

The work takes its title from Jean Luc Godard’s 1968 film ‘One + One’ in which he splices together two very different ‘films’; a filming of the Rolling Stones recording Sympathy for the Devil, and a series of fictionalised tableaus of radical proselytising and reading by various characters in run-down urban wasteland settings.

In addition to this film, the artwork also takes as a key source another sequence from a Godard work; the opening credit sequence to his film, Le Mepris (Contempt). Here we see a tracking shot being made, filming a woman walking towards the camera, reading from a book. As Le Mepris is a film about the making of a film of Homer’s The Odyssey we assume that the book she is reading is The Odyssey.

The sequence, as with much of Godard’s work, is highly self-reflexive on the process of film making, and it also, perhaps typically too of Godard, positions the woman/actress in an intensely scrutinised and corralled condition.In addition to these filmic references, James Joyce’s Ulysses is also used as a literary source.

Taking these two influences, the image of reading (and in particular a woman reading) and methods of tracking become central motifs and procedures in this new work. Previously most of the artist’s works have used fixed frame video recording, however here she sets the camera in motion, introducing more cinematic tropes.

The track also features as a sculptural and contextual element through the development of the work in the site of the Rea Garden. This site, a small area of abandoned and overgrown waste ground in Digbeth, central Birmingham, is surrounded by railway lines and canals. In response to this, and to provide a device for filming, the artist installed 12.5m of 22” gauge miniature railway that ran the length of one of the boundary walls of the site.

The work however did not only respond to the physical properties of the site, but also to its cultural and social history. Now a lively artistic ‘quarter’, Digbeth was once an industrial centre for Birmingham and as such home to huge numbers of Irish immigrants who came to work in the factories and on the canals and railways. It is still a strong Irish area and this aspect resonanted with the artist’s own experience as an Irish immigrant to Britain.

All of these factors finally led to a public live performance work, filmed using four separate cameras, in which the artist becomes the woman reading. Instead however of reading The Odyssey (in reference to the Godard film) she reads from James Joyce’s Ulysses. Itself based on the Odyssey, but set on one day in one city, Dublin, Ulysses combines intense situatedness with the full force of a modernist universalising impetus. For the performance, the artist chose to read only the proper nouns in the book - names of people and places - and in doing so both addressed the Irish context of the site and at the same time ‘repopulated’ it.

One + One (The Reading) is a video work made from the recorded material of this performance. Currently the work has been editing into a single screen work, but ultimately this work, along with the other two parts, will become a multi-screen installation, which may also include sculptural elements and drawings.
Video Extract