Kari Robertson’s films and sculptures explore the relationship between sound and image in an age of immaterial labour and semio-capital. Much of her recent work has focused on how technology has affected the way that we interact and the vernacular created. The exhibition at SWG3 Gallery takes Jean-Luc Godard’s 1970 film British Sounds as a point of departure. In his polemic Godard proposes that the image as a medium is completely corrupted by capital and has no revolutionary potential, instead focusing on sound. Ohmage, shares allusions to the high Marxist discourse used in the original film, nominally relating it’s political ‘resistance’ to the scientific term for the measurement of sound.
Robertson’s first project on 16mm film explores the paradox inherent in British Sounds; the pre-digital cinematic process required that audio become an image printed on an object – optical sound – in order to be transmitted. The silent film evokes audiovisual scholar Michael Chion’s assertion that “silent television is inconceivable”, presenting bootlegged edits of MTV music videos compromised by their missing soundtracks; the lack of the music’s synchronicity rendering the animated labour of blurred images futile and absurd. Spliced footage shows a call centre out of hours - mute and temporarily redundant. Adjacent, Dieffenbachia amoena stand a silent witness, once used by Caribbean slavers to quash dissent on their plantations, striking anyone who was forced to ingest its sap temporarily unable to speak but otherwise fit to work.
In Unemaro 3D takeout Pizza Obscenity in the key of Freddy Bauche a digital projection transfers focus from background street to foreground smartphone screen, facilitated by manipulations in the audio-visual scene. The absent male French cinematographer relays a poetic account of a virtual relationship between ‘I’ and ‘he’. At once geographically apart and physically together, the protagonists are unified by language and a common medium. Just as the synthesized voice struggles to translate the written script – recomposing the familiar letters into francophonic clauses – so do the incongruous elements of the romance resist assimilation into a regular universal narrative.
Disoriented images on a prone LCD screen expand this relationship of the body and language to technology. The eponymous voiceover in Smooth talker/ striated silence speaks of integrating electronic items and natural prostheses. It floats in ‘smooth space’, relating the shift in our sites of labour from globalised to the universal; from ‘desktop’ or ‘web’ to ‘the cloud’. At points the language disrupts into digital interference and non-verbal utterances, simulating an incompatibility between the system and its user.