More Art!

Posted February 25th, 2008 by Ben

I don’t know if it’s me or if I’m merely responding to what the rest of you are doing but at the moment the films that are really catching my interest are unashamedly arty. A case in point are the recently uploaded cluster of little gems from David Palazon. His work snuffles in the bushes somewhere between art documentary and art installation and is generally marked by a charm and a visual invention that makes his best films sparkle.

My favourite is his recent film “Free Ride” which documents the latest art work by Francis Thorburn who performs in the streets of London with a man powered chariot. Or at least, David describes this as Francis’ performance. I’d describe it as being a bit of a twat in a desperate attempt to get people to notice you, but I’m probably splitting hairs. It is though the measure of the quality of this delightful five minute film that an art project as insipid as pulling people round the streets gratis in order to try and prove, I presume, some sense of humanity within the inhumane city, does eventually come over as a worthwhile and positive enterprise. At first I wanted to hate Francis Thorbun, I wanted to see him cut up by a van or seriously injured by a bus but as the film progresses I was left with a sneaking admiration for him. A great deal of this is down to the fact that Palazon tells his story with all the craft and eye for beauty that is lacking from a piece of art that involves acting as an unpaid skivy for tourists. If I’m honest I’m still unsure quite what Francis has achieved by this, but I do know that David made me smile broadly about how perfectly silly and beautiful London can be.

If you enjoy “Free Ride” then I would also recommend David’s earlier films “Use Your Head” and “Eye See”. I must though come clean and admit that, despite this blog currently reading a bit like a it’s been hijacked by an Arts Foundation course, I am basically an out and out populist. Consequently I’d suggest you avoid David’s film “She And Her Crossing” which documents the performances of Dianna Brinsden and Martina von Holn in the 2007 Camberwell Arts Festival. Once again David manfully enters into the spirit of things and brings a lot of his own creative ideas to shape his documentary, but there’s nothing he can do to hide the fact that this is just two women in big dresses fannying about with balloons and a road. Again, despite my high hopes, nothing bursts their creative balloons by hospitalising them after impacting with their performance at sixty miles an hour, not even a supercharged Francis Thorburn who I found myself wishing would make a fatal cameo appearance.

Perhaps I am a cynic. Perhaps I’m missing the point. Is two women crossing the road in Camberwell so different from a bunch of people walking past a static camera with stuff balanced on their head, which is, I warn you, all that happens in “Use Your Head”? Is it only the exoticism of Ghana when compared to Camberwell? No. I think it’s the humour. In David’s best films you can feel him grinning from behind the camera, it is a grin that, Chesire cat like, infuses every edit. Dianna and Martina seem so desperately sincere that it robs the pointless activity of it’s fun.

Likewise, though Christopher Frayling speaks with great erudition and passion about the photographic exhibition that forms the real content of “Eye See”, this is no match for the visual wit and curiosity of the photographs that follow. Mr.Frayling takes up the first half of this 10 minute film and I think is likely to bore many of the audience into clicking away to other films – but don’t! Let it download and spin on to half way through and watch the photographs – they’re brilliant. As is David.

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