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Gareth EvansClick here to Print this Page
George Barber
This is an attitude, a position of both the interstices and the busy thoroughfare.

Just as with Walter Benjamin's colonnades, where the plethora of signals makes for revitalised, if saturating, passage, so the generation of an image realm like this can only be fully appreciated by one whose tone of approach retains its own tangential will, its sideways gaze. Preferring the spaces in between from which to view the throng. Thus it is with Barber. In all his impulses towards excess - the rich palette saturations of '1001 Colours Andy Never Thought Of' or the slipping, sliding, fractalised music pieces; even the high volume roar of 'Shouting Match' - there is at the heart of the project a still point. A modest, understated, riddle-enjoying zen-like quietude that seeks a clear space, an ultima thule beyond the map's ragged edge, where all the 'stuff' of the world, all the visual and verbal and material noise doing its thing 24/7 in our shops, streets, beds and heads, might kind of cease for a while.

And, in this 'Withdrawal', all we would have, or be, is a boy on a stretch of grass, on his own yes (as Barber often was in his infancy and schooldays), but somehow it doesn't feel overwhelmingly bleak, sad or even mortality-provoking. Sure, the other people have gone, the summer buzz of family and friends, the hands held and the picnic conversations on the green and turning earth. But so has all the 'stuff', all the barriers between boy and complex, not consumer, being. Just a boy on a stretch of grass. Real grass. A field, maybe even, if he and we are lucky, a meadow. Soft. Not LA grass, not, to quote from Barber's Summer 2004 essay 'The Signs of Los Angeles' (for Filmwaves magazine), 'grass going through the motions... nominal grass, not representative of a particular individual or home, but corporate grass that has crept over the border and colonised domestic space.'

The creative tension here, the dynamic that underpins all of Barber's work - is between the unframed beneficence and fecundity of genuine human conduct - evidenced in the touching signs of family pride and messaging that sprout across the manufactured LA lawn, or the warm chatter of 'Withdrawal' - and a certain arrival at a certain kind of threshold - whether it be the shoreline ('Walking off Court'), the treetops ('Upside Down Minutiae') or the hoarse limits of the vocal ('Shouting Match'), where might gleam the promise of brief rest from the workings of the world and all its images.

Gareth Evans
Still from Withdrawal by George Barber, 1996
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