The first and only time I have seen this video piece was during my first ever trip to ‘that London’, escaping from the Liverpool Art School student enclave with a visit to Tate Modern.
I’d never been to a gallery that contained escalators. Nor had I ever seen an entire floor of a gallery devoted to video art. And this video art exhibition, Time Zones, remains the best I have seen at Tate Modern.
At the centre of the show was the Fiona Tan piece Saint Sebastian. Projected over two large screens, it immediately solicited my gaze. The camera lens breathes over a sunlit ear. Gloved fingers of the pale young archer unfurl her bow, poising the dart against her cheek. A moment of tension, then a whacking stab as the arrow snaps away.
On the screen’s twin there is chatter. Dangly hair decorations. Young women assemble to shoot their arrows. Their involvement in the archery competition marks their coming of age in this portrayal of the traditional Japanese ceremony, Toshiya, and the artist has chosen to show the female competitors.
Concentration, strength and the coming of age through ceremony. A fitting work of the week for the start of the Paralympic Games.