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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Images at the Baltic

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The publicity for , whose Still Lives exhibition runs at until September 3rd, acclaims her "compelling psychological portraits in photography, film and video." But whose psychology is being examined?
Photograph of the Baltic Mill seen through a window
For example, in the piece that I found most arresting, Wood filmed David Beckham sleeping. In his celebrity life outside of football, we are used to seeing him in the glossy pages of Hello magazine, child or wife in one hand, cellphone in the other, trapped in a moment of a busy - and apparently fairly ordinary - life. On the pitch, television cameras pursue his sweeps down the right wing, chase the glorious arc of his crossed ball, track in slow motion replays the agression of his tackles. By focusing on him asleep, however, Wood removes him as far as it is possible to be from both of these contexts.

Cleverly lit, like a Titian or a Michelangelo, swathes of light lie across his face like soft brush strokes, structures of shadow bringing out his angular jaw. He is heroic in his physical looks, a canonised statue in his peaceful sleeping. This is a static vision of the transcendent, an iconic aid to contemplation. Then, suddenly, he twitches and the hand on which his head lies shifts slightly. The image now revealed as playing video suddenly switches its focus, accusing the viewer as voyeur, a media obsessive pruriently spying on this most famous face in its intimate moment. Ironically, however, this is one interior video log to which no one can have access. Caught in this unusual transitional medium part way between print and screen, neither celebrity nor sportsman, his face transcribes with infuriating partiality the complex dreams going on behind the mask, beyond the reach of the lenses of the pap.

In contrast to this, there is no subtlety in Space-Time Tunnel, which is exhibited on the floor above Wood's work. An elaborate steel and chicken wire construction, the viewer (participant?) walks through its hunched and dimly lit shape, which is punctuated regularly by TV screens above and left and right. Playing live broadcasts from stations around the world, they assault with bursts of noise, in different languages, a diaspora of programmes: shopping channels, music TV, news. In an attempt to draw a single strand of coherence out of this clutter of competing narratives, people seem drawn to what is familiar: I found myself pausing before News 24, reading the ticker tape update on the Lebanon conflict; the German or Austrian couple ahead of me halted suddenly, and turned to watch a Deutsche TV sports show.

At the end of this disorientating tunnel, is a child's slide. Having been bewildered by the strange images, one is suddenly puzzled by this everyday one, and I halted at the top, uncertain as to what I was supposed to do. It seemed incongruous that this is how to leave this serious piece of modern art. But with no other way out, having glanced quickly over my shoulder, I skidded and scuttled awkwardly until a few metres before the end, at which point I stood and walked the rest of the way, unwilling to face the waiting Baltic "crew" member in a liberated, but awkward, position on my arse.

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Posted by Alistair at 4:49 pm


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