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No Place
No Place is a new film work by Sarah Miles, shown as two different companion installations, in two separate but related locations - King's Lynn in Norfolk and King's Cross in London.

King's Lynn and King's Cross stand at either end of the railway line into and out of London and, in their own way, provide archetypal representations of the country and the city: the one set amongst a fiat, agricultural landscape of rural isolation; the other a teeming, and often seedy, vision of the all-consuming but anonymous urban metropolis. Divided into two parts, and consisting of a dream- like collage of images from both locations, No Place traces a series of parallel stories involving a number of young country girls, whose paths in life are played out against the backdrop of cinema, and in particular that exemplary fantasy journey undertaken by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

The King's Lynn part of the project reflects the point of view of a young girl (one of a number of surrogate Dorothys) growing up in the country, who seeks regular refuge in the cinema and who dreams of one day moving to the city. The companion work represents the point of view of an adult woman (Dorothy grown up into Judy from Hitchcock's classic Vertigo...) looking back, from the apparent sanctuary of a church, contrasting her nostalgic memories of the countryside with the loss of her innocence, and her childhood illusions, following her arrival in the Emerald City.

King's Cross has long been a magnet and a refuge for transient populations (the displaced, the dispossessed, the disturbed), as well as a haven for artist-outsiders - an enduring feature of the area that is evoked by the fragments of video footage that Miles (as a long-time resident) has accumulated down the years. This documentary material (faces flowing in and out of the underground, a montage of the hotel signs in Argyle Square, glimpses of the red-light district) is counterpointed with a number of setpiece scenes which echo significant moments from Hollywood movies. Following the Yellow Brick Road to a seedy hotel room near King's Cross station and on to the belfry at St. Pancras Church, Miles' film conjures a feeling in which contemporary charaters' footsteps are not only shadowed by traces of the past but also prefigured and reflected in the language and mythology of cinema.

At the heart of the work is the motif of a crystal ball: as an object in the newly-filmed scenes, and as a distorting lens through which much of the material is viewed. Taking its lead from The Wizard of Oz, the crystal ball acts as a gateway into a world of heightened colour. A medium for scrying, for invoking the spirits of the past, it is also a portal into the parallel fantasy-world of cinema, creating a phantasmagoria in which the film and video footage starts to coalesce. Oblique and episodic, the non-linear, looping nature of the installation also suggests a dream-like blurring of fiction and reality.

Stephen Bode
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