Paul Rooney at The Collective Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sat 12 July 2008
Liverpool-based artist Paul Rooney’s two video works on show at the Collective Gallery include the newly commissioned ‘Lost High Street’ (2008), which draws on his experiences as an art student in Edinburgh in 1987. Set on an open tour bus and created using a hand-held video camera, the piece casts Rooney as a tourist recounting fragmented stories related to the city.
In the film, the tourist is trapped on the bus with the tour guide in a continuous loop, which gradually brings on a sense of fear and paranoia. The title is based on the Hank Williams song ‘Lost Highway’, which Rooney’s tour guide sings excerpts from. ‘It’s a moral song,’ says Rooney, ‘about a young guy who makes mistakes in his youth and is condemned to travel the road forever.’
Also showing here is the video ‘Monster’ (2004) which Rooney made during a residency in Melbourne. In it, a narrator recites poetic descriptions of the city to a backdrop of Melbourne street scenes. Inspired by a fictional modernist poet called ‘Ern Malley’, whose complex hybrid poems were intended as a hoax yet achieved considerable success, Rooney similarly weaves together many sources to create his narrator’s script.
The absence of people in ‘Monster’ contrasts with the encounter in ‘Lost High Street’. As Rooney says, ‘It’s only recently that people have begun to appear in my work.’ Yet, the two pieces are thematically united. ‘Both works explore different ways of encountering a city,’ says Rooney. ‘I’m interested in the way our mundane and routine world resonates with unfulfilled potentials.’
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