Railways and railway paraphernalia often evoke nostalgia, and in Britain the association of rail travel with escape, reverie and romance has entered the cultural imaginary, acquiring regional and other nuances. Simultaneously, there is increasing awareness of the technological systems which now regulate the movement of passengers and trains.
In Seemingly So, Evidently Not, Apparently Then an old, tiled and mirrored waiting room suffused with rose-coloured light becomes the site for an interplay of staged past and surveyed present.
A CCTV camera installed by the one clear window of the waiting room produces a live CCTV view of the platform outside. The image, projected in the room, contains several anomalies: notably a woman in an exaggerated pink Victorian dress continuously pacing the platform, reading a small book; and a large clock. A cursory check reveals that neither are actually present on the platform.
Further scrutiny reveals that two versions of the CCTV feed – one live, one prerecorded – are layered together in the one projection. Past and present people and trains are rendered equally ghostly by a video mixing process, but the built parts of the station appear mostly solid, and the spectral platform clock in the projection runs in-sync with a similar clock in the waiting room, throughout the day.
Seemingly So... mixes an artist's performance with the traces of surveilled people, trains and other objects, past and present, rendering all as part of a single reality. The outcome is especially intriguing precisely because the site for the work is a railway station, where vehicular movement is restricted to fixed tracks, and activity is governed by a schedule. Aside from the woman and the clock, there are many near-identical features in the past and present video layers. The inevitability that some things will fall slightly out of sync (temporally) and out of register (spatially) helps the viewer to decode the projected image.
A viewer following the movements of the spectral woman will probably realise that some of the normally dressed figures sharing the screen inhabit her "stage-Victoran" time-frame, whilst others are live, in the present. In deconstructing the video-mediated reality of Seemingly So... the viewer might apprehend both the extent and the limits of the regulation of movement within the station.
Seemingly So... commissioned by Site Gallery Sheffield, for the exhibition Shunted
Sheffield Midland Railway Station, 23 October - 21 November 1998
Wardrobe consultant and seamster: John Cox
Shunted participating artists:
Simon Biggs, Frances Hegarty & Andrew Stones, Brighid Lowe, Impossible Theatre, Mark Wallinger.