Offsides is superb video art, an exception these days. The gallery notes say that Oorlagh George is an Oscar-winning filmmaker and artist. I watched the installation without knowing this. Consequently, I did not need to mull over that statement: filmmaker and artist. Not all filmmakers are artists, not all artists are filmmakers. Oorlagh George is the artist that workes with video installation. The quality, aesthetics, constellation of values, are comparable to that of Nam June Paik, namely his homage to Joseph Beuys at Documenta 1990 (Beuys Voice) as and how it offers a complete immersion.
Oorlagh George is working the lens based medium of video with flair, visual intelligence, and strong power to transform similarity into a difference. In the next quote that process is referred to as “recreation”.
The notes state
“The project is a recreation of mobile phone footage of an incident outside the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California in 2014… the man’s anger is so frenzied… that psychologists cited the incident as a case of a severe type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, called Intermittent Explosive Disorder.”
It is a multiscreen projection of the same scene described in the gallery notes thus: “Each is a vertical video of a young man violently attacking a car, as seen from inside of the car, where an older man sits in the driver seat, expressionless. As variations of the lengths are compounded, the silent videos grow out-of-synch and become a single, ever-evolving narrative of an attack on one’s self. The piece is an exploration of generational trauma and communal silence in Northern Ireland. A strange recursive loop of simultaneously trying to confront and escape the past. Peace agreements don’t end violence, they move it indoors… Offsides is about when the violence reappears in the street, disconnected from any meaning it once had”
The out-of-synch parts of the installation felt at first as different parts of the longer story, not as out -of -synchrony repeats. Picasso thought about art being a convincing lie is quite an apt association. As the eye gradually, increasingly, recognised similarity, it still joyfully avoided the fatigue of a repeat. Each view commanded a freshness as if it were a part of a visual fugue. The surprising impact of seeing the same as different was indeed the vital value. There is more.
Reading later about the inspiration makes my admiration for this work even stronger. I felt sympathy with both – the violent attacker’s obvious suffering and the stoic patience of the attacked. The thin skin of the glass between them is a tactile and visible presence of the ease with which peace can grow into conflict. When I turned to leave, there was a screen on the wall with the sequence startingly new: the window of the car was partly down. That increased the vulnerability of the man inside – while it also indicated some trust between the opposing sides.
The installation as a whole manages to present, to make visible, the paradox of an end of an event turning into a continuation. In this case, the reason for the conflict was a traffic incident and state of mind of both persons involved. If applied to the Northern Ireland Troubles, Good Friday Agreement and paralysis of normal democracy in NI now, the theme renews itself uncontrollably.
The similarities subside to the dynamics of the fresh evolved connections made by each viewer.
Moreover, the “document” gets transformed by emptying it of some data into an aesthetic experience the range of which wiggles out of any particular story but includes all similar ones. The transparency of the installation embraces each viewer’s particular memories, the case of an almost subconscious application of affirmative “perspectivism” that treats every point of view on the world as a source of meaning ( see Small R: Nietzsche and a Platonist tradition of Cosmos, JHI, Jan-Mar, v 44.no:1: 89-104).
Affirmative perspectivism unchains art from a unique centre, it treats every work of art as a likely story about the world. Each point of view as a source of meaning. This artist not only knows it but masters it with the elegance of spirit.
I cannot resist the thought on the “individual universe” of those things in the world that “slip away and do not wait to be described” (Plato, Timaeus, 49E) as a coda to Oorlagh George magnificent fugue on a fragment of being in the world (anywhere)
Images courtesy GTG