Allan Hughes raises questions about 'the reliability of the media' with video works at Belfast Exposed
Share it, retweet it, blog about it. All to takes is a catchy slogan, eye-catching gif file or video with an inflammatory message and people are all too happy to inundate their social networks with your message. Half the time nobody checks the information – sometimes they don't even watch the video or visit the website that their telling people about.
Enemy Blue, by Belfast artist Allan Hughes, looks at the way that video in particular can be used for propaganda. The Belfast Exposed exhibition is a three-screen synchronised video installation using a variety of politicised source material.
Hughes' include a Committee report to the United States House of representatives on 'Misleading Information from the Battlefield: the Tillman and Lynch episodes'; Gerhard Richter's published notes on political ideology and Edward Hunter's 'Analyses of Jane Fonda Activities in North Vietnam'.
It sounds dry. Actually, that is understating it. It sounds like an impenetrable academic slog... and a slightly weird one at that with the addition of Fonda. Once you actually enter the exhibition, however, the overall effect is a lot more intriguing that the sum of its parts.
As always Belfast Exposed have cut their exhibition to suit their artistic cloth. The Enemy Blue installation is set up in a specially constructed room in the back of the gallery, with the screens erected in front of walls.
Apparently random images flick over the screens – a grey haired man talking, hands dealing cards on a livid green baize table and a red-shirted football player running out of a thick mist. Sometimes two screens show the same image, at others they all show different ones.
The instinct towards narrative makes the viewer – this viewer, at least – construct links between the images. The flickering candle is a vigil for soldiers, the cards represent manipulation rather than chance, and the red-shirted American football player is slow-motioning running from obfuscation to clarity.
Hughes uses 'grading' and other post-production techniques on the videos to create a 'false historical account'. The effect is of home-made or unauthorised footage, given weight through its illegitimacy. They look like something a conspiracy theorist would unearth in a thriller to convince the hero that he was telling the truth.
With many people having access to slick, user friendly video editing software these days, the fact that Enemy Blue looks like it isn't trying to convince makes it all the more convincing
There is also a second, single-channel work by Hughes at Belfast Exposed called 'The Voice of Their Guns'. It takes a recorded communique from the Symbionese Liberation Army, one of the messages the revolutionary organisation released after they kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, and subjects it to similar post-production techniques as are used on Enemy Blue.
Both installations are effective pieces of video theatre, raising questions about the reliability of the media and its vulnerability to the narrative of propaganda.
Enemy Blue runs is at Belfast Exposed until October 12. There will be an introduction to the exhibition every Wednesday during the exhibition at 1pm.