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Another Difficult Sunset (1996)


5 Screen installation

Super-8 transferred to 4:3 PAL DVD

Continuous Loop


excerpts from The Trouble with Speaking

by Anne Tallentire


When travelling through each of the five narrative sequences dispersed through the rooms of Jaki Irvine's video installation, Another Difficult Sunset, the clever logic of the work reveals itself by drawing us towards a belief in that which appears meaningful but which at the same time dissolves into that which is meaningless. In this her most ambitious work to date, we follow a man and woman on long, mundane and everyday journeys through London.

On a monitor in the first room, we see a woman leave a block of flats. She walks up some steps to a train station. We hear a man singing from the street below. We see her standing on the platform. The flats are visible some way off. She watches, from a short distance, a man and a woman, also waiting for a train.

We overhear them:

'...if a lion could talk, we wouldn't understand it."
"Not only that, but if we could understand it, we'd be so distracted by the fact of its talking at all, that we wouldn't care what it was saying so it's better off roaring, especially if it's in discomfort".

The camera returns to her waiting. She looks out to her left and then to her right. The sound of a train hurtling by drowns out the singer. She stands with her back to the camera. he has red hair. The camera pans in towards an older woman who leans casually over her balcony, surveying the city below. A pigeon lands. The loop repeats.

Michel de Certeau discusses 'the act of walking' as having a triple enunciative function; it is a process of appropriation, it is a spatial acting-out and it implies relations among differentiated positions'. 2

....There is a democracy of viewing, which allows the audience a 'freedom' of movement...evident in this work. While watching the first narrative sequence of Another Difficult Sunset, sounds typical of underground travel seep towards us and draw attention to another monitor flickering in the periphery of our vision. Moving between the rooms of the gallery, the conceptual architecture of the work deftly contrives to poeition the viewer so that they can carry one narrative whilst at the same time anticipating the next.

In the second narrative sequence, the woman gets off a train and makes her way through the underground station, walking in a labyrinth of tunnels, passing a commuter reading a newspaper. The front page headline relates the death of a keeper in a tiger's cage. She continues up an escalator, past another headline, "Death in Tiger's Cage", then down an escalator to stand alone before getting onto a tube. A train pulls into another station and the woman gets off. The loop repeats.

A man sits on a train reading a book: In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan. He is at a part of the story where a young boy arrives home to find his parents being eaten by tigers. His thoughts are narrated as voiceover. As he reads, he glances around the train. He looks directly to camera. The camera lingers on his face and on the faces of other passengers, who talk and laugh amongst themselves. We think we recognise him or at least, something of his experience.

As the element of sound continues to orchestrate the gallery space, we are enticed down a flight of stairs to the basement floor of the gallery by birdsong and a muted crowd chattering somewhere in the distance. Her a video is projected almost to life size depicting a woman waiting outside the tiger's cage at London Zoo. The man is also waiting , watching the tigers, but they never appear in the same frame. For some moments, the tiger prowls alone, the camera pans just close enough to obliterate the window. Finally, in the last monitor we see a man sitting on a fallen tree in a park.

He watches two women stop to pat a dog.

'You can't tell everyone everything but sometimes, if you are going to speak at all there are some things you've just got to say". "Yes", says the other, "and we have got to talk to dogs about biting if we are going to talk to them at all".

The camera peers over the shoulder of a woman sitting reading a newspaper:

" He showed it nothing but love".


Loss is at issue here. Irvine invites us to learn to think undistractedly about things that we cannot help thinking about, or cannot help have occur to us. 


written by Anne Tallentire

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