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George Barber
In an essay, From 'S'ap'nin' Man?' to 'What Blow, Blud?', published early in 2005 by the independent British magazine Filmwaves (issue 26, see their website, Barber sketches a remarkably candid picture of his development as an artist alongside an illuminating sense of the autobiographical roots of his work. This voluntary exposure of childhood details would seem to sanction a consideration of how those youthful experiences might have shaped his oeuvre, whether in a thematic, material/technical or even positional sense within the larger contemporary art and film/video scene.

On examination, the lines back seem remarkably fertile and compelling. Is it, for example, too much to suggest that his early years in Georgetown, Guyana (due to his parents' nomadic working lifestyle, escaping Britain's post-war gloom), able to wander the city alone aged six, in complete freedom, clear of risk and danger, sowed the seeds of the relaxed demeanour, independence and self-sufficiency that his work as a video artist demonstrates?

He speaks also of the colours, energy and light of the region, all of which are defining aspects of Scratch, along with the 'present-tense' sense of things that such a climate and lifestyle offers. Video as Barber deploys it is both intensely 'now' in its register and mood, while offering an extremely versatile path into the historic archive of the moving image as a result of the technology at work.

But the 'lessons' of his youth do not stop there. When his Caribbean idyll was abruptly curtailed with relocation to grim private schooling in England, it seems reasonable to assume that his resentment of (false) authority and imposed systems of control could well have been seeded then. Couple this with a quietly Ballardian take on England's endemic strangeness and obsessive social coding - insights granted perhaps, as is also the case with acclaimed writer JG Ballard, by the sudden immersion of an acute and open childhood into a constrained and class-bound hierarchy - and you have the makings of a creative subversion.

Still from by George Barber, 1986
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