Rebecca Lennon | Since they got rid of time | Press Release

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January 19th - February 16th 2008

Opening Friday, January 18th, 7-10 pm

Rebecca Lennon works primarily with film and performance, incorporating real and fictional conversations and events, rumours and myths, to reveal the poetic and the absurd in the everyday.

Splicing incongruous imagery together in her short films (birds in flight, a matchstick house, floating oil in water) with edited excerpts from interviews she has conducted, Lennon exposes the comi-tragic fragility of subjectivity and collective memory, whilst suggesting synchronicity in everything: “If you look at things long enough they start to connect”.

The work exhibited here at the gallery derives from a personal relationship with two cities in which Lennon has lived - Liverpool and Berlin. Drawing on real encounters and experiences, and a desire to get under the skin of each city, she has created a fictional archive of place.

Despite graffiti in A Kind of Illustration proclaiming “Here is not everywhere”, the cities in Lennon’s films could, at first glance, be anyplace – Berlin and Liverpool respectively become interchangeable, enabling us and the artist to project histories on to them and make associations with other places. Portraits of people are painted through text, enabling us to conjure up citizens of our own.

Both films in the series explore these multiple psycho-geographical and social layers, with each film relating to, and echoing, the other.

For A Kind of Illustration the artist filmed a series of empty ‘gaps’ between buildings in Berlin and recorded actual conversations with people about what used to exist there; “A park was built on one space but nobody would play there. ‘People want the gaps to stay empty’ a social worker claimed. The park was removed.”

The artist invites reflection on the nature of language and reason, longing and belonging, (heimlich and unheimlich), loss, transience and conflict: the artist subverts the expected reference to Germany’s past through inclusion of German graffiti ‘This is Not America’, reminding us of the present war and that there is always an ‘other’; tension and violence are always a part of the story.

Conflict is again subtly referenced in A Kind of Map, which was filmed in ‘Williamson’s Tunnels’ – a labyrinth of tunnels underneath Liverpool, (a city built on slavery), created by retired tobacco merchant Joseph Williamson, in the 1800’s. There are currently two rival voluntary support groups, who cannot agree on how best to excavate or market the tunnels, both haphazardly manage the site as a rather bemusing visitor attraction, and, despite their dedication to the cause, can offer no real reason why they were built or where the tunnels start or end.

“The purpose of their construction is not known with any certainty. Theories range from pure philanthropy, offering work to the unemployed of the district, to religious extremism, the tunnels being an underground haven from a predicted Armageddon.”

After a period of extensive research on site with the eager wardens of the tunnels, the artist came to her own conclusion that the tunnels were an art work - a physical representation of Williamson’s mind and psychological relationship with Liverpool, and of the channels of communication around him. “..he wanted the tunnels to be a place where people could escape time.. Believing that Williamson was disturbed and threatened by his belief that the tunnels could disrupt ordinary time, people were thought to have dumped waste, rubble and ashes to fill them up again….”

A Kind of Map bears witness to one man’s obsession and frenetic desire. The sorrowful mounds of bricks and rubble are all that remain from years of labour and determination. The passing of time, initially indicated through dripping beads of water and ripples in puddles, is literally speeded up, although unlike Hollywood horror movies, we’re not sure what we are running from or towards, but death is in the air.

The film recalls The Shelter Drawings by Henry Moore, which document families hiding in London Underground from the effect of the Blitz. The drawings show distressed and traumatised people, with blankets often resembling shrouds - a subterranean testimony of the impact of war on people and place – both of which are left scarred.

The two tower blocks (again referencing America) built above the tunnels, are an appendage in relation to the underground burrows, giving respite to individuals unaware of the past laying beneath them: lights flickering in patterns, resembling the flock of birds in A Kind of Illustration suggest a dialogue with the night. A taxi turns to throw its beams on us, implicating us in the narrative, and again we are reminded we are part of a much larger whole, which is forever in flux.

Unrequited Love is the title given to a series of letters written and delivered to Berlin by the artist.

Written as though to a lover, ‘B’, a fictional montage of all the characters she met while living in the city, Lennon tries to make sense of her relationship with the place through its inhabitants, and the teething pains of getting to know each other are often acutely, embarrassingly, cathartically revealed: “When I asked you for an 02 phone card, you hid behind the confectionary in your stall. I asked you again and you told me that you didn’t sell them. I could see them advertised, so I pointed to a card and asked you for a third time. You threw the card at me as if this made you angry. I paid and then as I was about to leave you called me an ‘Ugly Bitch’. I said ‘What is your problem?’ and you continued to chant ‘Ugly Bitch’ ‘Ugly Bitch’, even as I was walking across the street. I couldn’t understand why you were acting this way towards me. Perhaps I am not your type”.

Lennon mockingly exposes herself as an artist and a tourist, simultaneously attempting to come to terms with similarities and difference in an unfamiliar country, and magnifying each of our desires to be wanted, accepted and loved.

She highlights collective experience through the endeavours of the individual, illustrated through her invitation to visitors to pick up a letter from the gallery, take it home, photograph it and send it back to the gallery, to further develop the work. Each new address the letters arrive from are added to a map in the gallery, formulating a new portrait of the city and connecting the artist back to the city she once called home.

Ceri Hand January 2008