In Tactically Yours Frances Hegarty & Andrew Stones distil the idea of collaborative action into a series of exercises. In these, modes of art practice (performance, drawing, video installation) are presented both in their own right, and as proxies for other kinds of action, such as political protest, physical combat or bodily struggle. However it is that the artists' on-screen actions are organised, it is not through verbal communication, for no words are exchanged.
In three rooms, multiple CCTV monitors and related video and audio apparatus face the viewer, in different formal configurations. Black and white screens show the right-handed Stones and the left-handed Hegarty hurling rocks along the paths and avenues of a conifer plantation. All the sequences are similarly short, and continually looped. These factors, along with an omnipresent low-tech, light-industrial aesthetic, lend a disciplined, synchronised aura to the installations. A cacophony of quiet sounds fills the installation spaces: close-up footfalls, crunching branches, swishing coats, exhalations of breath, and projectiles striking distant targets, all against a background of distant road traffic and bird noise.
The overall effect is to frame the artists – or their avatars – as a company of tireless on-screen combatants. Their missiles are launched on a trajectory coincident with the viewer's gaze, creating a partial alignment of protagonists and onlookers. Running counter to this implied complicity, there is a defensive aspect to the installations, their layout discouraging entry to the back of each space, where the cabling essential to each display lies exposed in strands and coils.
In a separate (fourth) room a video projection shows a left hand (Hegarty) and a right hand (Stones) drawing simultaneously on a white surface filling the frame. Thirty-two drawings are made, in series, each emerging from a shower of percussive blows, audible throughout all the installation spaces. The drawing process is alternately co-operative and combative, and several sequences come to a sudden end when pencils collide, are broken or dropped, or the drawing paper is torn. As with the action in the forest, no words are exchanged.
Some of the drawings could be impressions of the plantation shown on the CCTV screens, others could be plans for the actions carried out there.
Depending on their own "handedness", the viewer may identify with the left or the right hand, or with a notional controlling entity, seeking to coordinate the work of both hands.
Tactically Yours is intended to raise questions about artistic action. Are the 'tactics' here merely those of two artists seeking a new approach to drawing (or other conventional art forms)? Are the artists playing out their own conflictual drives in the form of performances and drawings? Are they demonstrating empathy with direct political action, or preparing for future social conflict? Finally, given that this is gallery work, is everything safely contained, and neutralised, within the codes of art?
Tactically Yours commissioned by The Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland
Exhibition: 23 June - 29 July 2007
At the Butler Gallery:
Commissioning curator: Anna O'Sullivan (Director)