By Peter Suchin, 13 July 2004

Peter Suchin reviews Mark Aerial Waller’s latest work

One of the most interesting things about Mark Aerial Waller’s practice is its finely tuned interdisciplinarity. Frequently working as a film and video artist, Waller might also be described as a sculptor, an installation artist and an occasional editor and writer. Reversion of the Beast Folk, publicly screened for the first time at London’s T1 2 Artspace, is itself made up of four key elements: a video projection, a ‘cave’ rendered in expanded foam, a selection of voodoo masks and related drawings, and a series of fluorescent strip lights. Each of these components combines with the others to produce, during the ten minutes or so it takes to experience the projection’s run, a coherent, if deliberately jerky concoction of overlapping compositional strands.

The room at T1 2 Artspace in which Reversion is staged is a long thin chamber with irregularly aligned walls. It seems an appropriate place for constructing a cave or secret space reserved for the ritualistic ramblings of the two female figures in Waller’s film. Within the gallery, the foam cave acts as a second framing device, as well as a doubling of what the viewer sees on the screen, which is, for about half the viewing time, the interior and exterior of a cave. Two seats have been fashioned within the fake rock surface, indicating specific positions from which to watch the display. Such particularity acts to question conventional notions of cinema as something presented in an otherwise indifferently darkened hall or room. Waller takes everything in the environment into account, thus foregrounding relations between the image and its exterior, the viewer and what is viewed, and intelligently bridging the culture of the cinema and the nature it may capture, reconfigure and convey.

Opening with the view from the interior of a speeding Lamborghini, which screeches through traffic on an apparently endless highway, the filmic component of Reversion cuts to a bleak landscape in which two figures move forward through the depth of field. Entering a cave, they beat the ground with a stick and an axe, in due course discovering the recumbent body of a masked man, about whom the women remark ‘He comes to live with us.’ Whether this is a question or a demand is left to the viewer to decide. After pulling the now conscious figure out into the sunlight, and with several more glances through the window of the speeding car, the film closes with the older woman’s hand falling, the axe clutched between her fingers, on the centre of the man’s masked face. As the screen darkens one hears Brazilian Umbanda music (linked to rituals of the Goddess of sex), and the gallery is drenched in a red and bloody neon glow.

Many themes may be seen emerging from this work: the laying down of novel and hitherto unsuspected laws, power relations between the sexes, the confrontation of the primitive and the modern. The apparent realism of film is another. The image and its soundtrack are distorted, brittle, harsh against the softness of Hollywood’s lame fetishisation of the overtly ‘real’. Waller employs the scrambled motor of the camera used in the making of the film as an eerie background track, further promoting artifice over the pretentiously ‘authentic’ raw trace. Beethoven’s Emperor, also utilised in the piece, takes the mood in yet another direction. One feels as though one is being dragged through several interpenetrating time zones while remaining, paradoxically, within the same network of relations, caught in densely compacted patches of meaning. It’s a narrative that is pitched against narrative, an entertainingly insolent edging towards the violence of the void.

Peter Suchin <petersuchin AT> is an artist and critic