Digital film cycle
Commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art
Diplomat (2016), Kettles Yard, 2018
Diplomat is a digital installation of 100 short films programmed to continuously cycle through a random playing order. The individually numbered films are edited from a single-take shot of the artist performing a 7-hour durational action in response to the 2016 US presidential election. The number of films references the post-inaugural ‘first 100 days’, with a film for each of the president’s first 100 days in office.
The action begins with a warped record – a memorial album issued in 1964 featuring speeches by the then-recently assassinated American president John F. Kennedy. Purchased for $1.00 at a flea market in rural Wyoming, the record is heat-damaged and almost comically warped. The durational filming concentrates on repetitive playing of Kennedy’s inaugural address, which is considered by many to be one of the most inspirational speeches in contemporary Western history. Due to the warping, each time the record is played a different variation of the speech is revealed. The needle bounces across the contorted surface, repeating certain phrases while completely skipping over others. What was once a consistent, fixed form becomes fragmented. Kennedy’s skilful rhetoric is dissected through chance and his message edited at random, disrupting the polished theatricality of the speech as a performative piece of history.
Over the 7 hours of repeated playing, the record begins to deteriorate.
Highlighting its own fragility, the act of playing it destroys it.
'A sly little video work...like a message from another planet.' Adrian Searle