Gallery 2
12.12. - 18.02.2001

Curator: Milada Slizinska

Sam Taylor-Wood is an outstanding British artist of the younger generation. She graduated from the sculpture department at Goldsmiths College in London in 1990. In 1997 she was named Most Promising Young Artist at the Venice Biennial. She was also nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in England in 1998. Her creative works combine elements of photography, film and video installations. The human figure isolated on film remains a characteristic element in the works of Sam Taylor-Wood. Her projects are included in the collections of some of the world's most important museums.

SOLILOQUY VI, 1999, photography, 223x257cm

The show at the Centre for Contemporary Art includes two video works by Sam Taylor-Wood, Brontosaurus (1995) and Hysteria (1997), and photographs from the series Five Revolutionary Seconds (1995-1997) and Soliloquy (1998-1999).
Brontosaurus depicts a naked man dancing ecstatically to Samuel Barber's mournful Adagio for Strings. Shown in slow motion, his techno movements exude a strange melancholy as he slowly lulls the viewer into a meditative stupor.

SOLILOQUY I, 1998, photography, 211x257 cm

Hysteria, the second of the two video projections, shows us an extreme close up of a woman's contorted face. As her body heaves under an onslaught of powerful emotion, her head tilting backwards and forwards, the only part of the face that remains continually visible is the open mouth. Owing to the slow motion as well as the absence of sound, it becomes impossible to distinguish if she is laughing or crying. As the artist explains, she wanted to amalgamate these two opposed emotional states and blur the difference between them to such a degree that they would become the same thing. The emotional turmoil of the actress is meant to infect the implied spectator who - unable to distance him- or herself from this unnerving expression of an extreme emotional outburst because it defies labelling - is launched into confusion as well.

Intriguing spaces are opened up in Sam Taylor-Wood's Five Revolutionary Seconds (1995-1997). Photographed with a special rotating camera that registers a 360-degree view in one continuous take - the five-second-long-revolution to which the title of these works refers - they depict interior views of private lofts, once bohemian quarters of artists, now spacious and stylish realms of urban affluence and decorative ambition. These architectural folds are inhabited by oddly monadic, self-absorbed subjects whose detachment further underscores the internal heterogeneity of these spaces. For example, in Five Revolutionary Seconds V, currently on display at the CCA, we see in the centre three men grouped around a table, one sitting on a chair with his back to us, one leaning over the table, apparently threatening the seated figure and standing slightly behind him, the third man, an onlooker for the dispute. This staged argument is refracted in a mirror, which, positioned to the right of the group, gives us a view of the seated man's face which, given that he is resting his head on his right arm which is propped up on the table, is almost entirely covered by his right hand. This scene of strife is counterbalanced by a woman, reclining on a sofa which stands left of the table as though posing for a camera, a spot-light pointed in her face. Further to the left we find a solitary man, sitting on a chair looking out the window, his legs resting on the window still. Behind him, a second mirror reflects not a body, but an unoccupied chair over which a sweater has been casually draped. To the far left we see the bottom half of a body which hangs from the ceiling. The gender of this figure is as indeterminable as the meaning of this gesture. Suspended between ceiling and floor it functions like a foreign body, both part of the scene and not. At the far right a woman dressed in a red gown flees from something or toward something, maybe the half-visible suspended man. Hers is a blurred figure, her mobility an antagonistic force counterbalancing the stasis of the others. She, too, functions as an uncanny detail, embodying the turmoil subtending the elegant, serene surface of the scene, though her flight is as arrested as the difference which threatens momentarily to disrupt.

HYSTERIA, 1997, laser disc

As Sam Taylor-Wood explains, her thematic interest in the Revolution series was, from the start, "the idea of decadence, and how people behave within that. And having these dysfunctional social situations in which people don't interact with each other. Each person is isolated within their thoughts, worlds and actions, but held together by this surrounding abundance".

The exhibit at the CCA also includes photographs from the Soliloquy series. Soliloquy IV depicts the foreshortened naked torso of a giant breasted woman in deep sleep, her mouth agape, lounging on a sofa, her soft reddish flesh sunk deep into the ornamented pillows. Here, Taylor-Wood exploits the contrast between the slumbering feminine body and the activity of her psyche differently: it is not the genteel misty look of the dreaming subject but her obtrusive fleshiness that is juxtaposed with the products of her imagination envisioned below. In an empty room of an old house, picturesque windows, stripped wallpapers, and traces of furniture on the wall, three dwarves and a child gazing intently upward, perhaps at the female giant's elbow that breaks the border of the upper panel and intrudes into the predella. Chubby male twins stand to the right, flanking a mantelpiece.

BRONTOSAURUS, 1995, video, 10 min

Explaining her understanding of the term "soliloquy", Taylor-Wood refers to the condition of detachment that an actor experiences in relation to both his character and the play in which he performs, a mode in which, as it often happens in Shakespeare, the actor steps out of the play to deliver the author's comments directly to the audience.

In an interview with Sam Taylor-Wood, Germano Celant, Italian art critic, summarises her work as follows: "If I must conclude with a final analogy, I would compare your work to the construction of a piano, an object that systematically appears in all your works, both as a solitary element and together with people who play it. Your work, in particular Five Revolutionary Seconds as well as the Soliloquy series, seem to me like a keyboard, where the individual music keys are replaced by portions of images and environments, characters and things. A musical instrument, where the 'coda' and keys can be depicted in the singularity of a person stretched out or walking, seated or sleeping, which guarantees to all executions an interpretation through emotions and sentiments, according to criteria of passionate discernment that are entrusted to the inner ear that each of us possesses and is permitted to play. On the keyboard of your piano are the sounds of daily life, mental and sensual, fantastic and banal. They are present and effective, and only need partners who are capable of giving them musicality."



Exhibition organised in co-operation with The British Council
Exhibition sponsored by K Grupa Konsultanci
Media patronage: The Rzeczpospolita Daily, Polish Radio Programme III

The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle
Al.Ujazdowskie 6, 00-461 Warsaw, Poland
tel: (48 22) 628 12 71-3, (48 22) 628 76 83 ; fax: (48 22) 628 95 50