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Sally Waterman (art review)

April 28th, 2008

- The Waste Land: PhD Work in Progress (Section II Game), Viewpoint Gallery, PCAD, until May 3
posted by Cptn

It’s fitting that a show inspired by The Waste Land, TS Eliot’s 1922 poem about how bad everything is, should open in April, what with it being the cruellest month, an’ all.

But Sally Waterman’s personal interpretation of the text that’s on show at the Viewpoint Gallery, PCAD, focuses on part two of the poem, the Game of Chess. And Waterman picks up on the strategic battle of the sexes.

This is the second part of Waterman’s journey through the whole of The Waste Land, and the work is due for completion in 2010. Each section of the five part poem is intended to sit within a gallery and take the viewer on an emotional journey through the piece, plenty of which are based on the artist’s visualisation of past traumatic experiences.

It’s a fair old chunk to bite off; Eliot’s poem is renowned for its uncompromising allusions, oblique references and rich imagery. Waterman’s use of multi-media offers an opportunity to reflect that, but still she keeps her use of it quite tight: there are just four photographs, and four monitors with one film on a loop, other looped film and a soundtrack. All in all, it’s quite sparse.

Waterman’s Game slips straight to the miscommunication between the couple, with Hushing the Room Enclosed, where the spoken soundtrack echoes parts of the one-sided conversation (’Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.) Four photographs fill in the rest (’What is that noise?/ The wind under the door.’)

Opposite the photographs, four monitors swirl the looped film Quartet Manoeuvres, where a crumbling wall, cockles, a church ceiling and gin bottles pursue each other on the screens.

Between these parts of the work, almost acting as arbiter, is the larger video installation In The Cage where “the non-communication between the poem’s speakers is conceptually interpreted as a series of gestures that are ‘acted out’ by Waterman, entrapped between two pillars”.

It’s the personal aspects of this piece that work most strongly. The Quartet Manoeuvres film feels personal to the artist but intangibly familiar to the viewer. The poem itself is at its most melancholy when external viewers offer their pub-fuelled commentary on a relationship. Maybe that’s something we should all remember (And still she cried, and still the world pursues,/ ‘Jug Jug’ to dirty ears.)

Sally Waterman will hold a public talk about her work at PCAD, Studio Theatre on Wednesday April 30.

Entry Filed under: Arts

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