Steven Bode, Director, Film and Video Umbrella, London
In a London of fast-blinking lights and speeding commuters, cars and trains leave luminous comet-trails marking their passage through the night,
and individuals reflect on freedom in the urban metropolis, or seek escape from the repetitive habits and conditions it enforces.
Presented as an outdoor projection at A Foundation and as a twin-screen installation at 198 Gallery artist Suki Chan’s work is inspired by ideas of freedom of expression. In an impressionistic and lyrical study of London’s diverse population, Sleep Walk Sleep Talk contrasts the movements of people on their way to and from work with their individual efforts to enjoy free time, and to create their own personal and psychological space outside the architectural restrictions and behavioural patterns imposed by life in the city.
Chan's work weaves together a series of video portraits highlighting revealing responses to the mania of London life. Groups of skaters, unimpeded by traffic, move freely and intuitively, mapping the twilight city. Nigerian security guards gatekeeping a deserted high-rise office block compare the ‘freedom’ of London with the rhythms and aspirations of their former lives.
In Sleep Walk, Sleep Talk, Chan finds freedom in the marginal flashpoints of the city and in the internal psychological spaces of the conscious and sub-conscious where solace is sought. She mediates between public and private, investigating the underlying social, cultural and political structures. The work moves subliminally between a sleepwalker’s hazy drift through the drudgery of daily city life to a sleeptalker’s blurted expression of unconscious, pent-up frustration; from weary travellers dozing on buses to the deliberate act of self-retreat into meditation.
Commissioned by Film & Video Umbrella. Funded by London Councils and Arts Council England.
Sleep Walk, Sleep Talk is the first project of FREE TO AIR, a major new four-year programme by Film & Video Umbrella for London Councils. Taking as its starting point Roosevelt’s famous ‘four freedoms’ – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. – Free to Air invites four artists over four years who are living and working in London to create a work exploring the multiple meanings of ‘freedom’ in contemporary society.
Sleep Walk Sleep Talk, at 198 Gallery, London, Third Text review by Paul O'Kane.