Thursday, 29 November 2007

Jaki Irvine - "In A World Like This" Chisenhale Gallery, 31st October - 9th December 2007 - Daniella Saul

The viewer entering the Chisenhale Gallery’s expansive space would be forgiven for thinking he has just walked into the fresh open-air again, not into the East –end chill outside, but into a rehabilitation centre for birds of prey. Irish artist Jaki Irvine’s new show comprises a nine screen video projection shot at the Irish Raptor Research Centre in County Sligo, Ireland. At The Eagles Flying Centre, Irvine recorded the rehabilitation processes of neglected, injured birds. The nurturing relationships fostered with their handlers are set to a cacophonous soundtrack of squawks, bells on the birds’ necks clanging intermittently and encouraged calls from their handlers.

The birds’ promising progress, captured by Irvine as a snapshot of typical day’s activity fosters a budding emotive type of spectating on the part of the viewer. This is achieved entirely through the arrangement and size of the projections onto the gallery’s walls and the timing of certain images onto the walls. This arrangement re-creates the probable spatial arrangement of the centre’s open terrain, with a focus on three poles of activity : the birds’ at rest, their trusting relationships with their handlers, and their flying exercises. The viewer enters the space into another almost square space in the centre of the gallery, built from two walls forming an L- shape, leaving the top left and bottom right hand corners of the space open. This is the flying arena, where the birds swoop from their handlers arms, in sometimes tentative and hesitant flight, to a target further away. The viewer is a privileged audience to a rare and triumphant spectacle. In this double L-shaped space, depending on the direction of the bird’s flight, the viewer must shift both their gaze and body in order to follow its direction. To the right hand side of the gallery space, a continuous projection shows resting birds perching majestically on various posts scattered in an expanse of greenery. To the left hand side, on four smaller screens, the nurturing relationships between the birds and their three handlers can be seen as the handlers seem to pose with their vulnerable charges perching on their elbows, as if for their portraits. The viewer’s sense of curiosity to repeatedly return to each of the screens is created by the sonority of bird calls across the gallery, impossible though it may be to be sure of any connection between them.

Linear narrative is eschewed here, in favour of creating a poignancy individual to each of the areas of activity one sees captured in the images. Irvine’s work is a looped projection and within it the activities depicted in each of the three areas all occur in real time. However, their duration seems interminable as this work captures a moment of progress in an ongoing enterprise, suspending it for the viewer to revel in its success.

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