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Clive GillmanClick here to Print this Page
David Critchley
But despite being very central to the development of video art in the UK, for many people the work of David Critchley is coloured by an interesting spin, with mythologies of rejection and destruction of his original works informing broader understanding, especially in the current climate of excavating these still recent histories.

No-where is this more resonant than in the consideration of Critchley's most well known work, the 1979 piece, Pieces I Never Did.

This work was originally developed as a three-channel installation, using the new resources of U-Matic colour video editing that were now accessible at the RCA. The work, developed over a lengthy period in 1978 remains a complex and engaging work allowing readings on many levels, but is perhaps dominated by the artist's own perception that the work was made 'as a testament to my involvement with performance, with film and with video from a principled perspective which I no longer maintain in relation to these media'. In the piece the artist talks directly to camera about a whole series of works that he has conceived, but never made, while on the other monitors these works are played out for the camera. The piece is exceptionally entertaining, and even daring, for a video work of this era, but at its heart there remains a compelling glimpse into the mind of an artist wrestling with the core of his practice. In the single channel version of the piece - and the one that most people will experience today - the monologue is intercut with the repeated elements of one of the pieces he never did - the artist stripped to the waist screaming the words 'shut up' until he is hoarse and unable to emit more than a squeak. As the work evolves this voice returns again and again as a manifestation of the challenge he is presenting to himself to find meaning in the reflexive, structural analysis of his form. The presentation of so many actions, each of which could so easily have formed individual works, as non-actions, lays open the predicament of an artist who has discovered little value in the domain of his success and seeks to find another corner to turn. The 16 individual pieces - the shouting, the throwing oneself against a wall until it crumbles, the running away from a camera that keeps catching up, the onanism, the standing in corners, each individually speak of a challenge to find the 'principle' inherent in a formal interrogation, but collectively portray an artist in command of his medium, yet approaching a conclusion of rejection.

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