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CaoimhĂ­n Mac Giolla Léith.Click here to Print this Page
Anne Tallentire
Translation is an inevitable aspect of life in the age of postcolonialism and globalization.

The process of translation, however, produces its share of incomplete transactions, failures of communication, false friends, intercultural inequities and untranslatable, culture-specific residue. In a succession of works that simultaneously employ and render problematic certain advances in communications technology, Anne Tallentire has exposed the limitations of that technology and emphasized the fractured and precarious nature of the community or communities it aspires to foster.

Inscribe(1994 and 1995) is a work in two instalments, each of which took place in two different venues in two separate countries simultaneously. For Inscribe I (1994) the artist performed a series of simple, quietly theatrical bodily actions to camera, such as covering her face with her hands for a few minutes, in a BT building in central London. This footage was instantly transmitted via ISDN to an audience in a Telecom éireann building in Dublin's city centre. It was interspersed with other, pre-recorded material: apparently random video footage of a car journey through the City of London, the casual but restless scrutiny of various architectural details and pieces of street furniture. The following year Inscribe II took place in an empty office block in London's Square Mile and at The Orchard Gallery, Derry, situated close by that city's historic walls.

With the aid of ISDN technology, once again, a quasi-ritualistic, durational action - purposive, but seemingly meaningless - was performed in one venue and transmitted to another. On this occasion the artist washed a small section of gallery wall in front of a live audience in Derry, while the assembled viewers in London witnessed the event live on-screen.

Tallentire's stated intent with both of these events, located for the most part in buildings not generally accessible to the public, was ' to perform a space of alienation', but also to involve 'both the artist and the audience in a mutual act of communication and viewing'. In Inscribe II, for example, images of the London audience viewing the screening of the Derry proceedings were transmitted in real-time back to Derry, thereby allowing the audiences in both locations to communicate with each other during the course of the performance.

These exercises in real-time reflexivity in some ways evoke structuralist-materialist film's exploration of the basic mechanics and properties of its specific medium. They also recall minimalism and post-minimalism's concern with the nature of the artwork's formal interpellation of the viewer, certain early works by Dan Graham spring immediately to mind.

Tallentire, however, is at pains to emphasise the specific historical, geographic, cultural and political background of this work. It was produced in the immediate wake of the IRA bomb that devastated the City of London, and at the very beginning of what was to become the Northern Irish Peace Process. 'It's good to talk', jobbing-actor Bob Hoskins jauntily and repeatedly informed millions of viewers in a popular TV ad for BT at the time.

Yet, despite its ostentatious deployment of advanced communication technology, Inscribe seems in retrospect to have been characterised just as memorably by minor technical hitches and inevitable stops and starts. The work was notable for its uneasy perception of the relations between centre and periphery, and for the bemused uncertainty of the sea-divided, mutually estranged community it so briefly and tentatively brought together.

Still from Inscribe II by Anne Tallentire, 1995
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