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Before the Page is Turned (2011)


5 x Single Screen Projections running consecutively  

HD 16:9

Total duration 29 mins 37 sec 

Before The Page is Turned


This sadness will pass- it is the nature of things. The wheel will turn. But before it does I want to register the pain that has been caused and the lives that have been broken in this time and will not be returned.   The narrative that threads through the works is written, like something that hasn't been spoken but still needed to be translated somehow- an obstinate holding onto something that can't be said in any other way and has to take its chances in this old-fashioned form. Oh dear!  This video work, shot in Dublin Graphic Print Studios, is set out in five discrete but inter-related 'chapters':  


Acid is being dripped onto a copper plate that is partially protected by bitjumin. The parts exposed are slowly eroded so that the image is etched into it. To my eyes, this process has its lineage embedded in every stroke of the brush, in every clink and drip to and from the needlessly ornate bowl. Still, there is a search for something here, a spark to be found through such time-worn and time-consuming techniques... and luck. We know that's what we're trying to do here...looking for that unnameable thing. Again. A bit of a conversation that lodged somewhere.  The subtitles reflect on this search. The process of making art, of thinking about making art...thinking you might have found it and somehow not noticed or maybe have already forgotten it. And maybe, if you could only bring yourself back again to the point when you nearly held it. All of this seems so distant and yet so absolutely embedded in artists' everyday working lives, and the illusions and disappointments of 'success', like an investment. So far removed and so close that it drips into the soul like acid onto a plate.  Layered over the on-site recordings from the acid room in the print studios, the main line of the soundtrack is carried by a 'backwards piano' that to my mind is a kind of rippling, dripping thing.   Everything else plays on the shakings, tippings and liquid attentions of the acid - something both delicate but too much at the same time. 


Stone grinding. That's what they call it. They grind away the image with another stone or a levigator, getting rid of what went before.   Outside things are steadily getting worse: people losing jobs, life savings, homes. Falling through the cracks of our society, we know some of us will never get up again.  A lithographic stone holds on to its image longer than the eye can see. Sometimes a ghost image appears in the next print, sending the printers back to the grindstone once again.  The soundtrack here, layered over the actual recordings from the lithographic studios has been made mainly through the layering of string instruments- ie. instruments whose sound arises through the rubbing of one thing off another. I wanted to make a sound that was dense and insistent, almost echoing traffic at times, but also somehow tentative, that could seem to ebb and flow and move from one side of the space to the other as the stone and levigator do. 


Copper and metal plates are being cut and prepared. Promises have been made and broken. Everywhere. We know that. And yet... Here too? Or not yet? Can this be going on and not be refracted here, in the way I look at things? At one point I can see the master printer's hand...but for a moment his wedding ring disappears from his reflected hand. Nothing is exactly right. Everything is upside down. And we keep thinking that maybe if... maybe then...  But there's no stopping and no going back. So we continue on doing what we do, making plans, getting ready, in the face of ongoing damage on so many levels. We are trying to hold on, trying to keep it together, trying to believe one another but we know what we have to do: let go.   Along with the on-site recorded sounds of the shifting metal and tipping of metal ruler off metal sheet, the soundtrack is dominated by the brass instruments of trombone and trumpet which echo the metal of the plates. Their lines rise over a slow-moving cello in a failed reaching for a heroic line that lapses back into something more melancholic.  


Mistakes happen: slip-ups and spillages that we try to take back somehow but there is always a drip that breaks the glass, a moment when things can no longer be sustained or ignored.   When I got to the passport office the queue was overwhelming. The crowd was more or less subdued apart from the child's voice, louder than anything else, as the ugliness of what was being said again and again washed over everyone waiting there...the sound of a relationship cracking under pressure.  The sounds of the stone being shifted, rubbed, scratched and scrubbed have been amplified and layered over a soft dry piano score (the opposite of the liquid layered notes of the backward piano in Printworks I) . Here the dull percussive quality of the stone and the piano has been emphasized - sound produced by one thing hitting another- to echo both the silence around the notes, around the stone and around each person as they find themselves alone in the middle of a relationship that's disintegrating.



The printing continues. Everything takes on a heightened significance and we are haunted by those who leave. Maybe that's part of what happens, part of the process. Aquatint is melted onto a plate, paper drips, layer upon layer... meaningless details are exaggerated, blown up out of all proportion. Maybe so. Or maybe it is simply the dragging out and folding in of so many instances, the accumulation itself, that has led to such an inability to continue.   A piece of paper...a message...a thousands...  Sometimes it is just too late.  The rhythms of the printing processes continue as they always have and the soundtrack echoes these rhythms, although now the sounds of the printing presses have been emphasized, repeated, extended so that they turn into wails and these in turn are part of the fabric of the music. Gestures and movements have been imitated by pizzicato violins. Piano notes start high and slowly tumble down the scale... delicate, deliberate and somehow inescapable like a life lost in machinations beyond our control. A printing machine lets out a final wail in the dark and then there is silence. 


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