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Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith.Click here to Print this Page
Anne Tallentire
The ordinary practitioners of the city live below the threshold at which visibility begins. They are walkers whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban "text" they write without being able to read it.' - Michel de Certeau

If some of Anne Tallentire's works invoke a fragile sense of community, others focus on the relatively isolated figures that move imperceptibly through our civic spaces, variously attending to society's needs, great and small. Her most recent body of work, collectively titled Driftworks (2002-) are slow-motion, silent meditations on the unregarded drift and flow of human life and labour. More specifically, these works concentrate on the figure of the lone downtown worker whose generally thankless job it is to maintain the material fabric of the deep-city environment. These videos may be combined and arranged in various configurations depending on the exigencies of the specific exhibition context.

The intensity of concentration with which these anonymous workers pursue their tasks is in stark contrast to their routine and putatively menial nature. A well-equipped window-cleaner hanging in a safety harness, with his back to the viewer, works his way methodically across the glass-fronted façade of an office-block. An industrial-sized sweeping brush ploughs with improbable grace through the dirty sludge of a waterclogged pond , propelled by workers whose Wellington boots are all we see of them. A bright yellow stop sign is carefully painted on a tarmacadam road by a roadworker who is similarly invisible from the knees up. A shadowy, faceless worker is filmed performing some inscrutable task in the sickly green glow of ambient street lighting.

The more obvious autobiographical implications of Tallentire's earlier work may have receded since her decision in 1999 to remove herself physically from the arena of performance. Yet her critique of the totalising nature of vision, and her interest in the problematic power of communications technology continue to inform these latest works. The terrorist and the illegal immigrant are just two obvious figures whose interest in evading the increasingly pervasive technology of surveillance may be taken to be self-evident. Both categories have been associated with Irishness.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for any individual, community or sub-culture to remain below society's threshold of visibility. Yet the power a given individual or community may exert over the particular ways in which they are rendered visible vary enormously. Questions of visibility and invisibility, of representation and self-representation, remain at the heart of Anne Tallentire's art. Such questions are crucial in a culture ever more willing to condone the invasion of privacy in the name of the public good, and the curtailment of basic human rights for the benefit of national security.

Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith.
Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith is a critic, occasional curator and Lecturer at University College Dublin.
Still from Drift 11.00 by Anne Tallentire, 2002
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