Retreat Syndrome

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Carousel, 2011, Ink on paper

Ironic Damocles, 2011, Pen on paper

Miniature Climbing Walls, 2011, Foamboard, play-doh, masking tape

Calendar, 2011, Tape on Wall

Kar Khase, 2011, 1:36 loop video

Text on Carousel:

Carousel

A video recording device is attached on the side view of a typical model horse which one would find on a carousel.

There is a young girl sitting on the horse on the carousel with blonde hair tied up in pigtails. She is eagerly anticipating the start of the ride and she smiles to a point off screen, just off to the right. The girl has to face slightly backwards to see as the horse is facing to the left. Her blue gingham dress is hanging down to her black lacquer shoes and white frilly socks. Her feet are positioned on the feet holders of the model horse; they are agitated and excited so that her ankles scrape against the white glaze of the horse. The horse’s plastic yellow mane flows down from the top of its head, crowned with a purple metallic tiara smothered in jewels. Down the side of the horse is inscribed the name Cinderella in a graceful text base, also in a lustrous purple.

In the background of the image, many people move around in a funfair setting. The usual cast are all there: the boy with the enormous hat with a mother who is holding his precious hand; the old couple, the man gnawing at his candy floss with his gums, and the woman resting the backs of her hands on the seat of the bench watching the children have fun; the clown with long balloons which he fashions into a variety of animals (at the beginning of the film he is finishing off a dog which he hands to the boy with the ridiculous hat). The backdrop is colourful, taking the forms of coconut shys, candy floss stands and a quantity of unidentifiable other stalls.

The soundtrack is a bustling crowd of noises, speaking, shouting, and the chiming bells playing out a familiar tune which was possibly in a disney princess film.

As the film continues you hear the carousel’s machinery begin to turn and the girl screams with glee. “Mummy, mummy!” she exclaims. And the mother responds from off screen with an inaudible answer in an excited tone.

The background begins to move to the right, we see the little boy with the hat look up in amazement and pulls at his mother’s hand and points to the attraction and cries out in excitement. The girl in the foreground is rocking her legs back and forth as they have been removed from the feet holders for a while now, ever since the carousel started whirring. Her face turns further back so that she can still glance back at her mother who we hear from off screen shouting praise at her brave daughter. As the background continues to move to the right, the girl’s head switches to profile, mimicking Cinderella’s, and she gazes off screen to the left, forward for her.

The movement of the funfair to the right allows us to glimpse at other unknown kiosks all with their canopy roofs representing the medieval tents that made up the fayres of the past. Other likely characters can be quickly seen as well, there is enough time on camera to establish the relationship they have to one another. A father walks with his chuckling daughter on his shoulders. A group of four teenagers, all but one with ice creams. Then the mother of the girl on board the carousel makes her cameo. She waves frantically at the girl who is now looking our for her mother. When our protagonist sees her she lets out a yelp of triumph. They wave at each other, the girl let’s her hand raise from her grip of plastic to achieve the connection between her and her mother. Her head rotates further round to see her mother disappear off screen, and her mother’s body rotates to keep her body facing her daughter.

We see the likely fairground characters again, this time the boy with the large hat has the balloon dog and they are roughly ten feet from the clown who is now searching in his pocket for another one of those special long balloons. The old couple are still seated in the same position as before. There is a man behind the coconut shy who we did not notice before, he is looking bored. The father with his daughter are slightly to the right of where they were last time. The teenagers are still loitering in their space.

Our principal character, the pig-tailed girl is in profile once more, she looks ahead into the certain future. Her hands are once again clinging to the neck of the horse. The speed at which the background is moving is increasing quite rapidly, yet the expression on her face ensures us that she is not frightened by the pace of her surroundings. We notice as she moves her hand off the horse to gesture to her mother once more and we notice the mother raises her hand again; there is a shared noise of thrill between them but it is hard to tell what they are saying as the sound from the carousel has become a lot louder and they both shouted at the same time. It is possible the pair knew what each other were saying as the mother bends over with an open smile on her face whilst the girl turns back to facing forward with a grin on her face in the foreground.

We forget to look at the background as we notice the girl take in her immediate surroundings by moving her head around to look at the golden polls that hold up all the model horses. She follows the poll to outside of the screen where presumably she can see the roof of the carousel. She then moves her vision down towards the camera and then down again off the bottom of the screen. Her attention shifts back to the horse and she strokes the plastic with her left hand and rotates her head so that she can lean it against the horses mane. Her face can be seen with the purple word Cinderella just underneath. She does not raise to notice her mother who has just passed in the background of the video from left to right. It is now apparent that she is wearing a long, navy blue coat, which may have been put on during the period the background takes to loop or she may have been wearing all along – it was not noticed what she was wearing in our introduction to the character as we were only interested in the action and relationship she had to the protagonist.

The now familiar shapes of the supporting cast blur past as ambiguous forms, we can still distinguish them, the various shapes relating to the relationship and size of the grouping.

The girl who was lying firmly on the back of the horse is now sitting upright her face silhouetted side on against the melting colours behind her. The backdrop is moving incredibly fast, the navy blue haze has become our control figure in determining this and is accelerating, appearing more and more frequently. We can notice now that the colours have seeped onto the glossy coat of the horse, dancing around the contours. The girl notices this as well and is looking down at the horse before her in amazement, her face awash with euphoria.

The reds fused into the blues, the purples mixed with the greens, and the yellows and the burgundy against the sharp orange. Cinderella was alive with animated hues. The girl held tighter, her hands a black mass against the vibrating colour. Her face gleamed in the reflections, the teeth on show absorbing and casting out the light.

Behind her we find it confusing to find figures, the navy smudge is now completely undetectable in the labyrinth of form. Our heroine faces forward in this confusion, a determined look on her face. She seizes Cinderella in her strong and tense hands. We catch the flickering light in her eyes now quite wet. She is not crying and this water in her eyes is due to the speed the world around her is moving, placing pressure on her eyes. The wind must be incredibly strong as her pigtails are almost horizontal behind her. Her face is clinging to its position, but we can see there is a lot of strength being utilised by her neck muscles.

The colours in the background are still moving but they are moving so fast now that it appears they are moving slower. We can once again see the secondary players and the navy blue of the mother’s jacket. It appears the carousel is slowing down but we can see from the pigtails pointing rigidly to the right that this is not the case. It has just reached that certain point in any rotational object that the period of the revolution is just slightly less than the amount of images our brain can process in one second so their is an appearance of moving at a slower speed. The group of adolescents are still standing in their formation. One of them, a short girl with braces and long brown hair is laughing wildly, but her laugh is noiseless compared to the ultimate roar of the machine. This smiling face plays antithesis to the girl who purposefully gazes on alone, so distant to the group of teenagers. Finally we see the mother again come in to view. She waves clearly and strong, but her daughter takes no notice, her eyes fixed ahead, pushing the backdrop further and further behind, faster and faster.

Assumedly the background moves faster as the image becomes still.

It is still for a long time.

We are able to analyse the background, but we choose not to as the beauty of this still image is absolute. We are caught unaware by this, we knew it was coming but the tableaux becomes so all-encompassing that we are fixated. We cannot think of anything else except just how incredibly sublime this holy moment is.

And then we lose it all as the image snaps to black.

Video of Kar Khase: (oh and mute the sound unless you want some awful house music)

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Author: gordondouglas

Curator and performer based between Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland.

One thought on “Retreat Syndrome”

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