Silicone Remembers Carbon (4 stars)

Big brother is watching

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Alexander Kennedy sees and is seen as he inhabits Silicone Remembers Carbon, a stunning new interactive multimedia work from David Rokeby

In the first ten minutes of experiencing David Rokeby’s work at Glasgow’s CCA, I am ‘taken’, ‘dismayed’, ‘intrigued but resistant’, ‘troubled’, ‘voyeuristic’ and then ‘convinced’. So the randomly generated adjectives tell me, words that appear floating above the image of my disembodied head that has been recorded, ‘Taken’, by the cameras, in the installation of the same name.

‘Some viewers are troubled by seeing their image in the work, others are seduced,’ says David Rokeby of his interactive multimedia show. Seeing yourself in the work goes beyond the usual sense of identification that one feels with a character or subject in an artwork. You are the artwork, to a certain extent, a form that floats through the artist’s composition, being shoved about and labelled by his overall sense of order.

This work is also a comment on the CCTV-moderated world we now live in, of course, where we are followed, recorded, and labelled as a threat or not. We are already assumed to be guilty in the CCTV world. We need watching; the signs of our guilt are written on our bodies through our actions. If you don’t look or act guilty you aren’t. (As I skulk through the gallery with my hood up, I assume I look very dodgy indeed; ask the gallery attendant who followed me). But Rokeby’s work is not as theoretically or as formally barren as it appears on paper. The viewer is instantly attracted by the seductive oranges and pale blues of the bisected screen of ‘Taken’, as you follow yourself about on the red screen and then see yourself in a mugshot on the blue section. As I leave the room and peer behind me I am told that I am ‘still intrigued’, and I am.

The artist has expertly utilised the space of the largest gallery. In ‘Seen’ the wall juts out like the prow of a ship into the rectangular room, with four screens of visual information hitting the viewer right between the eyes as you stand facing the work straight on. Footage from Venice’s Piazza San Marco is recorded and projected in four different ways, four different views of the same historically (and aesthetically) rich area of land. Stationary constructions – buildings, monuments, coloured paving stones etc – remain as solid, looming presences. Figures passing through the space leave coloured vapour trails behind them, or is it before them? The body is deconstructed into layers of smoky colour, aureoles of anti-form projecting before and behind an imagined body – leaving history behind it and walking into a predicted future.

The body is almost totally erased in gallery one, where ‘Very Nervous System’ records the surface of your body, translating it into rattling, scraping sounds – the sounds of the edges of the body banging off invisible drawers of cutlery and buckets of nuts and bolts. This is the first programme that Rokeby created in the 80s, and is here in a format that puts the tactile (haptic) over the optic. As I stand, the foreboding sound of heavy material being dragged over a flat surface fills the room. Each move and twitch becomes imbued with symbolic sound. As I reach into my satchel I hear the rattle of a heavy, expensive Channel bracelet. Oh, if only.

Silicone Remembers Carbon, CCA, Glasgow, until Sat 15 Sep

Silicone Remembers Carbon

  • 4 stars

First major Scottish show for David Rokeby. Expertly utilising the CCA's largest gallery space, this intriguing set of video pieces uses the viewer's own image to pass comment on CCTV spy-catching.

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