In Orienteer... artist Frances Hegarty takes the role of a female runner making an impossible traverse of the city of Birmingham, from east to west, via twenty-five alphabetically-ordered streets, in one day. She wears a semi-reflective white running suit created for the work, a hybrid of modern sportswear and super-hero costume.
Orienteer... is created from fixed camera shots of Hegarty's runner advancing towards the camera, made in 25 different streets, edited in time with the runner's slow-motion footfalls. With every few steps, the scene around the runner changes, her constant progress becoming the driving force behind a time- and space-jumping gazetteer of a whole city.
From time to time the runner engages directly with other people (as when she is accompanied by children), but she is never diverted from her path, and is often unnoticed. A relativity effect comes into play: if the run is taken to be unbroken, then the city, which dissolves constantly from street to street, is rendered fantastically mutable; if the city is the one that it seems to be (meaning that the run cannot be continuous), then the runner, relatively speaking, seems more like a dream-figure inserted through video trickery. The image, however, is CGI-free, and made more ambiguous via a soundtrack that combines realistic, binaural field recordings made in each city location, and treated audio, including slowed-down insects and birds.
Claire Doherty describes the work in its original installative form:
Hegarty and Stones's orienteer moves largely undetected through Birmingham, following an alphabetical sequence of locations selected from the A-Z guide. The sheer brilliance of her white running suit and her unswerving trajectory challenge the perceived vulnerability of the female in the urban environment.
The journey begins on Alexandria Road as the figure emerges from the distance with the onset of the dawn chorus. Her gradual progression throughout the day is compressed or stretched, as if reflecting the mechanism of memory itself. At Zions Close, dusk falls and she exits the frame, her footfall entering the installation space behind the viewer.
Researching the route for the work involved an 18 mile walk, bisecting Birmingham from east to west - footage was subsequently shot in 25 selected locations. In editing this material according to a strict set of parameters, time, space and the endurance of the runner have undergone a compression. The orienteer remains the constant, around whom the landscape shifts from terraced housing to industrial estate, from corporate city centre to brown belt development. Hegarty and Stones restructure the city through a process of geographical and temporal mapping, so that the female figure acts as autonomous, disengaged guide.
as it is exhibition catalogue. Copyright © Ikon Gallery/Claire Doherty 2000.
Orienteer... commissioned by Ikon Gallery Birmingham for as it is
26 July - 10 September 2000
'a season of contemporary art situated inside Ikon Gallery and off-site, concerned with the nature of urban space -the "soft" city and its infrastructures'
At the Ikon Gallery
Commissioning curator: Claire Doherty.
With the assistance of
Tony Budd, driver and guide (video shoot)
John Cox, tailor
Phyroze Mohamed at 3M UK (reflective fabrics)
as it is participating artists included:
Merry Alpern (USA), Guy Bar-Amotz (Israel), Margaret Barron (UK), Tim Brennan (UK), John Carson (UK), Nathan Coley (UK), Jeffrey Dennis (UK), Kane Do (Vietnam), Fischli and Weiss (Switzerland), Kenneth Goldsmith (USA), Joanna Griffin (UK), Frances Hegarty & Andrew Stones (UK), Pierre Huyghe (France), Tadashi Kawamata (Japan), Tracy Mackenna and Edwin Janssen (Scotland/The Netherlands), Colin Pearce (UK), Paul Noble (UK). Navin Rawanchaikul (Thailand), Scanner (UK), Geogre Shaw (UK), Shimabuku (Japan), Angel Vergara (Belgium), Luca Vitone (Italy) and Richard Wentworth (UK).