Others' Stories

A series of video installations make for intensely difficult viewing at The Golden Thread Gallery.

Others’ Stories is a group exhibition scrutinizing the relationship between artist and subject. It aims to examine whether it’s feasible to truthfully portray someone else’s story without losing something in the final manifestation. How authentic is the finished piece? And what has been diluted throughout the process?

The six artists involved in this exhibition tell the stories of others in very different but complementary ways. All have submitted serious pieces, requiring a level of commitment from the viewer. These are not images to wander quickly past.

John Baucher has contributed some remarkable images depicting the landscape and people of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. The centrepiece of Baucher’s photographs shows a shadow of a tree in an aridly desolate place.

It’s a striking image, but it’s his photographs of the people of Haiti that have the most impact. In one, we see a poverty-stricken child looking at something or someone off-camera. On closer inspection, the viewer will notice the extra finger on each hand.

It’s unsettling, although it’s the ghostly figure in the background of this piece that will linger longer in the memory. In another photograph, a market trader beams with a wide toothy grin. It’s a hopeful image and one can sense the steeliness of nature within the Haitians determined to rebuild their lives.

In the background of this piece is a vaguely sinister voodoo mannequin figure making for an unnerving portrait. Baucher is adept at catching the moment, and in these pieces he has managed to capture not only the terrible struggle of the people of Port-au-Prince but also the steadfast hope for their future.

‘Textile of Iron’ is a film from Poshya Kakl, showing her visiting the women detained in Iraqi prisons for so-called crimes such as rejecting the practice of arranged marriages.

Veiled, and with their backs to the camera, the women talk to Kakl about their stories. While doing so they continue to add to wool designs they have attached to the fences that lock them away from the outside world. The brightly coloured tapestries form a glaringly stark contrast to the grey sadness of these women.

In one story a girl calmly relates how she fell in love with a boy much to the chagrin of her family who had tried to arrange marriage to another suitor. She tells us her father declared that he would kill her if she continued to try to marry for love. Now she is imprisoned indefinitely. It makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Lesley Cherry’s ‘The Knitted Word Project: Beautiful Girl, White Leather Sofa, Only Once and Black Patent Shoes’ is a collection of video installations, aiming to challenge the viewer’s ideas of truth in a narrative, told from a third-person perspective.

This piece fits perfectly in the overall exhibition’s objective of examining the dilution and/or the exaggeration of truth. The narrator paints a vivid picture, that starts off in a light-hearted manner, only to take a darker route. This is juxtaposed against some seemingly innocuous images of knitting. It’s a thought-provoking competent piece of work.

In the heart-breaking ‘Leon’ Franc Purg presents the eponymous teenager who killed his father after suffering years of abuse. Leon tells his own story on film, and it’s hard to watch. This is a young man who is still deeply damaged by his actions of seven years previously, and one feels that he will never fully recover from it.

Purg aims to raise the idea of how facets of a story can be swallowed up by the bigger aspect. Here, Leon’s crucial and life-changing moment is the murder of his father, pushing the years of abuse into the background. It’s a deeply compelling piece.

Cecily Brennan’s ‘Black Tears’ is the largest physical installation. It’s a 7.50 minute video showing a woman crying. Why is she crying? Not even Brennan knows. The artist paid an actress to cry, and did not ask for any reasons, keeping the piece on-the-fence between a told and untold story.

It’s frustratingly intriguing. The tears and emotional expressions range from delicate waterworks to a full-on grief-stricken cry. It makes the viewer consider the suppression of feelings, what little it takes to tap into these, and the authenticity of our emotions.

Finally, Lisa Byrne’s deeply serious interviews with the families of Rory and Gerard Cairns, who were shot dead by the UVF in 1993, are depicted in a video triptych, each section of which is titled respectively as ‘Home’, ‘Healing’, and ‘Justice’.

Byrne was a neighbour of the murdered brothers and this is a very personal account of the family’s journey through their grief. Filmed in 2010, the family members provide an honestly raw description of their feelings at the time of the deaths and in the years since.

The films show that each story has more than one protagonist and that everyone sees things differently. The level of ongoing pain is quite shocking, and the film raises the question of whether time is the ultimate healer; in this case, that sadly does not seem to be the experience for the Cairns family.

Others’ Stories runs at The Golden Thread Gallery until October 1.