Matthew Hindley at the Cold Room
by Paul Edmunds
It's not usual for Artthrob to review a one-night one-person student exhibition, especially when it exists mainly for evaluation purposes. Matthew Hindley has, however, generated more interest in his work than your average student. Earlier this year Capetonians saw his video piece Allow me to Observe, which was commissioned for last year's World Wide Video Festival in the Netherlands.
Sometimes, as with Allow me to Observe, Hindley's idea is more exciting than its realization: selected participants wore a hidden spy camera wired to a kind of polygraph. When the polygraph registered excitement, the camera recorded the subject's object of excitement. Hindley then presented this (insufficiently) edited footage as a video projection. It takes a lot of wading through, and despite having seen the work three times I still haven't caught the lovemaking couple.
Video Ball, which was presented against an infinity screen in The Cold Room's photographic studio, comprises a pink waist-high sphere and a television monitor. A tiny camera pokes out of an aperture in the sphere and wirelessly relays footage to the monitor. There is a heavy battery eccentrically housed in the sphere, which gives it an unpredictable lurch at the slightest nudge, especially if this is in the direction of the infinity screen's glorious transitions. I was lucky enough to find myself in the studio with painter John Murray who was surprised to see himself upside down on the monitor. I sorted him out with a deft 180-degree roll of the ball.
Up the creaky stairs, in a darkened room, a peculiar object on the wall opposite greeted me. A small box was at the apex of a cluster of wires, which radiated skirt-like. To my left was a projection of what appeared to be the same object with lights dancing across its surface like a hi-fi's EQ indicator. Closer inspection of the object revealed small red LEDs along the wires. One could just discern a brief flash from each of these. The infrared camera opposite records this activity much more effectively than the human eye, the footage relayed to an adjacent video projector.
The work confounds with its complex convolutions of time and direction. The thought of all that splendid red light, only just invisible to the naked eye, invokes a painful sense of loss. Despite all the glorious disorientation of the work (and I pride myself on my sense of direction), and the slippage of time it presents, I can't be sure whether Infra Red invokes or neutralises the sinister nature of an infrared surveillance system. But I'm happy with that.
Stasis Detector was housed in the following room. Hindley again used an infrared camera to film an essentially darkened space. A monitor apparently shows the camera's view of the empty room. Eventually, you realise that this is a recording, because once you enter the room, your movement is detected by a motion detector which, with an audible click, causes the footage to change to a live recording of you in the space, watching yourself. Stay still for ten seconds and the monitor reverts to showing the recorded footage. The piece again invokes endless flick-flacks of time, space and orientation.
With work like this, I tend to be suspicious and worry that it is one-dimensional, that once you've worked out the principle it essentially runs out of steam. Hindley's 'interactive spaces' are, however, beginning to convince me. I feel attracted to his 'boy with a chemistry set' approach and I'm interested in the way he harnesses functional objects and processes, not without a sinister edge, to create situations which are thought-provoking and evocative.
Hindley's show was only on view on November 7, 2002.
The Cold Room Gallery, 143 Harrington Street, Cape Town
Tel: (021) 447 4183
Hours: Mon - Fri 8am - 5pm, Sat 8am - 1pm