Exercise (Djibouti) 2012 – The Old Power Station, Oxford

2nd August 2012

This was a secondary exhibition that was suggested by Sharon Boothroyd on the study visit to Oxford on Saturday 28th July.  Initially it was meant to be an integrated part of the study visit but unfortunately the timing of arrival at the meeting place and Sharon’s need to be at the venue for her presentation prevented any of us from going there first.

I along with a couple of others went to this event after Sharon’s talk and gallery visit but none of us stayed there very long.  The film/video doesn’t have any pre-set start and finish times and appears to run on a continuous loop, so you wander in at any time and stay until such time as you’ve had enough or the run reaches the point where you came in.  This is rather surprising as we were told when we entered that once the showing completed there would be a round-table discussion of what it all meant to us as individuals, so I would have expected a lot more formality on the start and end times to make any discussion worthwhile, but then I wasn’t the organiser, thankfully.

I think it’s fair to say that I’m not a fan of modern video and film that has artistic pretensions which is probably why I’ve never used the video facility on my SLR, no matter how good it’s meant to be, and I’m wrapped up in stills photography.  Having said that I do recognise that anyone who’s attempting to gain a degree in an arts subject has to be exposed to all forms of the art they’re studying, hence the reason I attended this showing.

From what I can gather about this film/video it’s meant to be a blend of digital and real imagery of athletes and soldiers inn the desert of Djibouti.  The initial idea came to the author from some images he’d seen on Google of American soldiers and machinery taking part in a war game in the area this film/video is set.  The athletics part came from a suggestion from the financial sponsors that with the Olympics taking place this year some connection to that would be appropriate.

We entered at a point where a group of red and blue, digitally manufactured bodies were apparently randomly grouped in a small area of the desert in various attitudes of readiness for something.  The digital bodies had been created from live images of athletes in a film studio, magic tricks.  A digital soldier was stood to one side with a signalling smoke grenade erupting at his feet and him just stood there.  As the camera was very slowly panned around a 360 degree arc the athletes came together in two ranks, according to their colour, and proceeded to then run a figure of 8 pattern directly in front of the smoke and the soldier.  They ran as two teams, in one long, interweaving, crocodile whilst the soldier changed position from standing to kneeling.  So far this had all taken approximately 10 minutes and as the whole film was expected to run for 30 – 40 minutes I couldn’t see this ending soon and coming to any worthwhile conclusion, so I left.

To me this event was very reminiscent of the experience of the Arnolfini some weeks earlier, https://lerpysphotographyblog.wordpress.com/bristol-festival-of-photography/3/ , and although it wasn’t the sort of stuff for me I daresay that film-makers found something worthwhile in it.

Unsurprisingly the vast majority of reviews on the web show what is probably the most interesting image in the film/video of American soldiers kneeling in the desert, some do show very poor images of the screen with the athletes and the only good image of the athlete scene is not available for use in blogs!  Make up your own mind.


One Response to Exercise (Djibouti) 2012 – The Old Power Station, Oxford

  1. Sean says:

    Hmm, it sounds like that video certainly was more about art that interest. Artistic video is lost on me I have to say as I prefer the toilet humor of fart and accident videos. If its not got something to view I loose interest.

    Just my 10 seconds worth, certainly more to the point that the 10 minutes you watched.

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