(the big one)
DVD, 5 minutes, 2006
“an island, never seen by human eye nor walked by human foot”
(the big one) is an artists’ cut of a 1970s movie. Through the careful editing of this footage the artists re-contextualise what was a fleeting sequence in the original film and re-frame this fragment, thus giving it new meaning abstracted from its original context.
The film was originally made around the time of the 1970s oil crises. At this time OPEC countries in the Middle East cut supplies of oil to the West, and caused much insecurity in industrialised America and Europe. This energy insecurity which threatens modern life is again pertinent in the early twenty first century: this is a time some experts reckon to be the era of ‘peak oil’, coinciding with the US military intervention in the Middle East and an earnest search for energy alternatives.
The reframing of this film takes its structure (classical Hollywood narrative) and subtly subverts it. The dramatic opening to the piece features Fred and Roy of the fictional Petrox Corporation toasting ‘the big one’ of the title. This refers to the record oil strike they will make upon penetrating a mysterious fog bank out at sea, and landing on a previously undiscovered island - virgin territory for them to colonise and exploit. This is of course the utopia of all prospective oil tycoons.
However upon penetrating the fog bank things don’t go to plan. Here the very legible structure of the piece breaks down: as the men’s desire to view and conquer the island become corrupted, so does the narrative. Trapped in the fog bank, fading in and out of view, they impatiently await the sighting of the island. The protagonists are engulfed in a never-ending fog searching for the elusive island. The dialogue emphasises ideas of discovery and conquest, but the visuals deny any forward progress. Their journey becomes disconcertingly looped and repetitious, wearing at the once boisterous ambition and optimism of Fred and Roy.
Verwertung, Interdisciplinary artsfestival, Berlin, June-July 2010
'Current Trends - Past Prospects', solo exhibition at Pallas Contemporary Projects, November 2007
Adaptations, Leitrim Sculpture Centre, 2006