Langlands & Bell: Films and Animations 1978-2008
- David Pollock
- 30 October 2008
Reflecting on Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell's joint career since first collaborating at Middlesex Polytechnic in the 1970s, this show tracks a continuing assessment of visual culture in the moving image, from Super-8 film to digital animation.
Probably the pair's most famous moving image work is 'The House of Osama Bin Laden', a Turner Prize-nominated and BAFTA-winning series from 2003, created during their time as official war artists of the conflict in Afghanistan. The eponymous centrepiece is a computer model of the house Bin Laden lived in before going into hiding and its surroundings, which the viewer navigates with a joystick. Resembling a console game, the work converts this minor historical landmark into a kind of hyper-contemporary pop art, while also seeking to place the viewer's perspective within the actual location as far as possible.
It remains, like 'The Artists' Studio', an electronic tour of the pair's own workspace, a bold yet somehow tentative experiment in new media. Far rawer in its power is 'Zardad's Dog', the controversial filmed account of a militia leader being tried in an Afghani court, where the disorienting hubbub of proceedings is only broken by some slight narration. As further demonstrated by a range of other filmed works - including the 22-year-old but still timely 'Borough Market', which shows the somehow organic scenes of the South London market against the rigid order of the City to the north and the arterial commuter trains rumbling incessantly overhead - Langlands and Bell capture ways of seeing places which allow the viewer precious space for interpretation.
Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 13 Dec