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Jan Peacock

About the artist | Video clips | Printer friendly

Video still from <b>Reader by the Window</b> by Jan Peacock

Jan Peacock, Reader by the Window, (1993), 4:58 min. excerpt from the 15:37 min. original

Video still from <b>This Walk, These Steps</b> by Jan Peacock

Jan Peacock, This Walk, These Steps, (1995), 5:23 min.

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About these works

Reader by the Window (1993)
Distributed by Vtape.

"Drawing on a personal archive of video landscape walks recorded over a six-year period in Canada, Japan, France, England and the USA, Reader by the Window simulates a narrative of apparently continuous passage and pursuit. Threshold and exit points from one space into another are simultaneously marked and erased by an aural narrative of associative sound, invention and recollection. What is passed through is history, the space of perceptual departure; what opens before us is memory, the space of perpetual return"
(Peacock, Vtape online catalogue).

We are in Paris, then Tokyo, the Grand Canyon, in snow-swept countryside, on rocky paths, heading to Notre-Dame Cathedral. We see Japanese tourists, roller skating kids, an organ grinder reminiscent of life in romanticized, 1950s Paris with its smoky café singers. There are chestnut vendors, photographers, images from a camera swishing back and forth in landscape as if impossible to fix or hold firm. Similarly juxtaposed, a voice-over dialogue repeats in different languages: "This place - what? - this place reminds me of another place." Soundtrack and comments change making parallel ties to the images before us.

Un'erba piu un'erba piu un'erba, as writer Italo Calvino's character Mr. Palomar says: one grass plus one grass plus one grass. There is no single, unifying picture for eye or memory, only a succession of tiny details adding up to the green expanse of a spreading lawn.

As the tape's narrator says, "Turn, retrieve, release, recover, return," an acknowledgement of absence but also of restoration. Scenes and images return over and over, as memories do, and we begin to recognize and anticipate them, make them our own experience. Though now familiar, they are no less ephemeral, points of light flickering on a screen-magnetic pulses in a virtual display. But they speak to us.

The work exists both as single videotape and as an installation with additional images on a pair of monitors mounted on a table resembling the shape of an open book. The table is set on a rug suggesting a living-room or library setting. Here, the viewer is invited to read at the "window" of the projected tape.

This Walk, These Steps (1995)
Distributed by Vtape.

A young woman approaches us from behind a smeared, transparent surface and places a single word, black letters on a small white square, directly on the screen with her tongue. Words follow in order, sentences on the watery surface, removed when complete to make way for new words. The silent words are direct-messages rather than poetic reflections. Then the woman's actions are interspersed with those of a man placing words in the same fashion: a dialogue. They "speak" of intentions, actions, and possible lies. There is an ending, but no evident accord.

In the upper half of the screen we see figures walking, the sounds of their words and steps muffled. The day seems cloudy, the figures uncertain in a stone courtyard.

The only clue to the meaning of these images is in the text below, the pink tongues of man and woman presenting linked words, without explanation.

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