For its sixth offsite commission for the Big Screen in Elmer Square, Focal Point Gallery has invited the British artist Phil Coy to create a two-part project comprised from choreographed public performances and generative, networked videos, to consider the merging of public and private spaces.
‘as far as I know’ draws on the gallery’s location in a library and the artist’s fascination with Francois Truffaut’s and Ray Bradbury’s love letter to the printed word Fahrenheit 451 ; the sci-fi classic that pictures a brutal totalitarian future where books are banned and burnt. The project re-imagines a scene from the film in which commuters on a monorail are locked into autonomous self-titillating gestures.
Coy’s re-imagining of the scene, filmed during a series of rehearsals and public performances by actors on London public transport and the C2C rail line, shifts emphasis away from the narrative fiction of the original film and towards the more general, distracted and consumptive malaise of today’s commuting populace. Focus falls on the small intimate gestures made by individuals touching the screens of their mobile devices.
By mimicking the production process of the now familiar faked internet memes used for the marketing purposes, the resultant film arrives to us across media formats, both through the internet in small distracted looping episodes via emailed Gif’s, Vine, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram (#afaik) as well as on the large public LED screen. The sense of a narrative that we would normally associate with books and a literate populous is here lost. Instead the film generates its own, slowly unfolding meta-narrative, depending on how, when and where we might glimpse ‘the film’ amongst the highly contested public and private mediated spaces it occupies.
This interest in self-image within the private-made-public space is developed further in a second work ‘devotion gradient’, in which Coy worked with local choirs to perform a seemingly spontaneous and yet ritualised trance-like devotional performance in front of the Big Screen, where the image forms a symbiotic relationship to the polyphony of voices it represents.
Phil Coy (b.1971) lives and works in London, Coy has exhibited in institutions and festivals including, Siobhan Davies Studios (2013), London Festival of Architecture (2012), Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (2012) Whitechapel Gallery, London (2011), South London Gallery (2010), Loop, Barcelona (2011), Volt/USF gallery, Bergen (2010), The Russian Club Gallery, London (2010) and Outpost, Norwich, (2008).