It sounded an exciting concept, but as so often in my experience with art video, the end result didn’t live up to the hype. A small audience of hardy souls shunned the Olympics on TV and gathered in the field next to the car park at Hive Beach to watch the Storyweir production by Proboscis, part of the ExLab programme. Having only read a little about the project I had no real idea what to expect, but was open to being inspired by people inspired by one of the sections of coast I love.
We arrived at sundown with the sky lowering and a strong breeze off the sea. We were a little late, I guess, as the cello was playing and the video was running. Not a problem as it turned out as technical problems meant they had to restart the presentation.
Three screens were illuminated by back-projection video with images of the sea, followed by a bloke in uniform with charts, followed by someone prising fossils from rocks, then people swimming in the sea. Meanwhile the cello added a mostly mournful but compelling soundtrack. I really have no idea what it was about, what stories were being told. That needn’t have been a problem had the images been sufficiently interesting, challenging or beautiful. The trouble was it was all a bit ordinary. I am not sure if they had insufficient computing power to render the waves coming in or the images had been filtered and noise added, but either way the result was that it looked flawed not beautiful. It was in any case a hackneyed intro really. The rest of it had occasional interesting images and, even more infrequently, three images that played wonderfully together, but mostly it was pretty dull – both creatively and visually. I know that the weather has been poor and you need a lot of lux power to get a bright effect, but the video seemed designed to be part of that history of dull, low-contrast art videos that have relentlessly disappointed me for 40 years and more. To be frank, there are video clips aplenty on YouTube that knock this into a cocked hat, done by ordinary folk who don’t call themselves artists and who don’t get grants and commissions.
Having said that I am tickled enough to go back in the daylight and see what else they have been up to on this project. Like I said at the beginning, it is an exciting idea, and just because the video presentation didn’t work for me doesn’t mean that I am not pleased that Proboscis had a go.