I Know Something About Love: Part II

I know Something About Love Part II 30 August 2011

We took advantage of the long bank holiday weekend recently to take ourselves off to Swansea to see the current exhibition, I Know Something About Love Part II, at the Glynn Vivian Gallery. The exhibition, initiated by the Parasol Unit Foundation, brings together the work of three international artists; Shirin Neshat, Yang Fudong, and Christodoulos Panayiotou.

The first work we came across was Yang Fudong’s three channel video installation Flutter, Flutter… Jasmine, Jasmine. The film focusses upon the relationship between a young couple in the city as they are interviewed in on roof tops by an anonymous interviewer who remains behind the camera. Although initially sweet and seemingly rather innocent the interview becomes slightly discomforting as the line of questioning leads towards the couple’s sex life which they clearly are not so comfortable discussing so openly. Following this the couple both sing along to, what we have since discovered is a very successful Chinese pop hit. This reference was unfortunately lost at the time of viewing the work.

The film presents an interesting exploration of the innocence and naivety of young love although it was not easy to engage with the film. Of course, some subtleties are always lost in translation when watching foreign films but it was actually the camera work and presentation of the work that distracted from the content. It could be argued that the naive nature of the camera work reflected the naivety of displayed by the couple but unfortunately we found that the simple camera work something of an obstacle to really engaging with the work.

Similarly we struggled to understand the purpose of the three channel presentation. Perhaps if we hadn’t been reliant on the work’s subtitles we would have been able to focus more on the imagery. It didn’t seem that there was a a particularly cohesive pattern to the way in which the video channels had been cut until the final scenes in which she danced in the street whilst he posed on his motorbike.

Christodoulos Panayiotou’s video, Slow Dance Marathon, explores the social construction of love through song and dance. A ramshackle stage has been erected on which couple after couple take it in turn to slow dance together to numerous love songs and power ballads.

As a concept we really warmed to the this work but the execution left us a little frustrated as the marathon had been condensed to a video just 4 minutes and 22 seconds. In this format the temporal way in which we treat love in the modern world is brought to the fore but we couldn’t help feeling that if the documentation of the performance presented in the gallery was more of a marathon it would have been a more powerful piece. To have seen the couples having their 3 or 4 minutes on stage slow dancing together in the context of something much greater would certainly have conveyed the transience of modern love whilst reinforcing some of the concepts of time passing that the idea of a marathon conveys.

Perhaps that the marathon suggested in the title was negligible was the whole point of the video, or perhaps the video should only be seen as a documentation of a public performance. We were left wanting but the work certainly raises a lot of questions.

The final work that we encountered was Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s Fervour which is a two channel video installation. From the credits we watched roll it was apparent that this was a well funded film and it clearly showed. The film was beautifully shot in black in white and explores the theme of forbidden love in the context of Islamic society.

We watch as a man and woman pass one another at a cross roads and appear to share a connection, walking away from one another tentatively as he looks back at her walking away. We then see the pair as they attend a sermon where men and women are segregated yet their intangible connection seems to transcend the physical obstacle that is placed between them. On occasion the two channel projection is used to reinforce the physical barrier between the couple whilst it also facilitates their interaction as they gaze at one another across the ethereal cinematic void between the two screens.

Neshat’s film is a powerful poetic piece of work that warrants repeated viewings.

I Know Something About Love Part II is on display until Sunday 4 September 2011 at the Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea. It’s an exhibition that features three very different approaches to the examination of love through film and video and we’d definitely recommend it.


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