Real Life
Tate St Ives: Exhibition
26 October 200226 January 2003
Susan Hiller, 'An Entertainment' 1990

Susan Hiller
An Entertainment 1990
Video
duration: 25min 59secs
Purchased 1995© Susan Hiller

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Real Life is an exhibition of film and video art, that brings together pieces by some of the leading practitioners in the world. Artists include Tracey Emin, Gilbert and George, Susan Hiller, Steve McQueen, Bill Viola, Mark Wallinger, Shirin Neshat and Sam Taylor-Wood. Most of the building at Tate St Ives will be given over to this video season and some of the gallery spaces will be temporarily altered in an intriguing manner to enhance aspects of the work on show.

The video installations demonstrate the frailty of human nature and life experience. CV by Tracey Emin is an overt visual diary of the artist’s life and is also an ironic response to the public fascination with her private life. Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk by Gilbert and George reveals both artists seated at a table drinking gin to a soundtrack of Elgar and Grieg. Susan Hiller’s An Entertainment looks at a seaside ritual, the Punch and Judy show, and focuses on the drama and violence of a scene that has for so long been taken for granted. Bear by Steve McQueen’s uses disorientating camerawork and silent movement of two male bodies across a shaft of light to give a feeling of ambiguity and tension.

The Reflecting Pool by Bill Viola depicts the artist diving into a pond; the water being symbolic for spiritual purification, death and rebirth. Mark Wallinger’s Angel is a metaphor for the spiritual rendition of religion in an urban environment. Sacha and Mum by Gillian Wearing expresses a family relationship in a disturbing manner, and Sam Taylor Wood’s Brontosaurus combines sound and image to portray a figure dancing alone in a private space.

With the exception of Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk and The Reflecting Pool, most of these works were created in the 1990s when interest in video art reached a peak and developments in this medium were at the forefront of British art. All the works in their different ways explore an aspect of the human experience in contemporary times, and deal with issues such as spirituality, sexuality, intimate relationships, isolation, violence and the politics of gender.