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Essex Road IV: Eight contemporary artists interpret a very particular part of London
Installation view. Photo: Cameron Leadbetter, Courtesy Tintype.

LONDON.- Now in its fourth year, Tintype’s Essex Road invites eight artists to each make a short film connected to the mile-long north London street.

The gallery’s large window, on a busy corner of Essex Road, becomes a public screen for six weeks over Christmas and New Year. The films are back-projected into the window, shown on a loop from dusk until 11pm, highly visible to a broad range of the general public who pass by the gallery.

Edwina Ashton makes films, drawings and objects featuring awkward animal characters that stand in for the human. Her hand-drawn, animated films hinge on the mismatch between our dreams and humdrum reality, offering absurdist narratives observing the everyday subtleties of human behaviour.

‘And each December, up the Essex Road lumber twenty huge caravans…’ Ashton’s film, Forest Bred Lions, draws upon the marvel and magic of theatrical illusion – alluding to a time when spectacular circus acts and other ‘wonders of the world’ appeared annually in the Islington Agricultural Halls (now the Business Design Centre); ‘And Mr John Corrers found an elephant near Kings Cross’ – Ashton has shaped a surreal, poetic interweaving of image and text.

Chloe Dewe Mathews is best known for ambitious photographic documentary projects that investigate sites and localities. For Caspian she spent five years in the countries that surround the Caspian Sea, exploring the unexpected ways in which humans are linked to the resource-rich landscape. Thames Log is a more personal journey in which she encounters people along the length of the river Thames. The project investigates the symbolic use of water and contemporary ritual in the British landscape.

Dewe Mathews’ film is a response to the systematic cataloguing of Islington streets undertaken in 1996 by Stanley Kubrick for what became his last film, Eyes Wide Shut. The location photographs, stored in folders at the London College of Communication, became tantalisingly out of reach; Dewe Mathews was allowed to see them but not to reproduce them. She has crafted instead, a film about filmmaking - an unfilm - A Message to the Viewer, a narrative about wanting to make a film and not being able to make a film.

Benedict Drew’s videos and multi-media installations offer a fantastical, giddy, almost hallucinatory sensory experience. His work comments on socio-political themes, particularly digital technology, and voices a critical protest against authority and control.

The title of Drew’s film, Incantation to rid this place of cars, without the help of Elon Musk (Essex road dub), is a pulsating, mesmerising invocation, summoning a rebellious defiance…’Tarmac Be Gone’.

Judith Goddard’s work spans three decades of the moving image. Known for her ground-breaking immersive large-scale video installations dating from the 1980s, her practice incorporates a diverse range of media, including photography, drawing, sculpture and print. Vision and time, from both a personal and historic perspective are fundamental constituents of Goddard’s aesthetic, informed by a highly adept process of observation, selection and construction.

Goddard’s film DerangeX, reflects on the outcome of the British referendum to leave the EU. It is a short animated abstract work, which draws on the voter’s glyph, a diagonal cross, set to the Carlos version of the European Anthem. Singly and as a repeated motif, the X glyph marks both that moment of allegiance and a shared binary form of notation - pulsating in a variation of rhythm and colour.

Matthew Noel-Tod’s film and video work combines references from early cinema, avant-garde film, text messaging, internet technology, CGI animation, philosophy and literature. His 2012 film Bang!, featuring talking dogs in Victoria Park, takes the audience on an idiosyncratic journey from Plato to the 2011 London riots. His work questions how new technology mediates our lived experience.

Noel-Tod’s film for Essex Road IV is a forensic close-up of the gutter, where the road meets the pavement. His study of the ground reveals a microcosm of identities and uses of the road. Through the rubbish mingled with nature we see the footprint of human life under late capitalism.

Paul Tarragó is an artist filmmaker whose work is a mix of underground experimentation and meta-fiction. His Badger series plays on the conventions of children’s television, but with a droll, deadpan humour that allows the big issues of existence to be approached, dissected, and explored in a remarkably subversive way.
A kinetic combination of live-action, stop-motion and table-top animation, Tarragó’s film uses the feral / domestic rock pigeon (Columba livia) as a recurrent figure in Essex Road. Tarragó has also been inspired by early cinema pioneer Robert W Paul, born in Highbury, who popularised the short film format, particularly ‘trick’ and news films. Expect a 25 fps flick book of a film: trickery and news.

Improvised placement is a leitmotif of Richard Wentworth’s work. His recent book Making Do and Getting By is a record of his observations of human actions, and the marks and traces left on the urban landscape. Happenstance – the public and the private, exchange and sharing – fuel his curiosity. Many of his photographs have been taken on walks through the streets of Islington, where he lives.

‘The city is full of bits of lost information – I have a great appetite for faults, breaks, cracks and seams.’ Richard Wentworth walks the immediate area of Essex Road near Tintype – prompting impromptu observations, architectural details, clashes and collisions – ‘how things begin, how things meet, how things end.’

Xiaowen Zhu is an artist, filmmaker and writer whose work communicates the complex experience of being a diasporic person. Her film Oriental Silks (2015) explores the story of one shop, a silk emporium in Los Angeles, revealing the intricate relationship between people and objects in a migrant world. The Details Are Invented (2017) features the character of a flâneur – a ‘foreigner’ who strolls London like a walking camera.

Zhu’s film Brief Encounters on the Milky Way documents the encounters of an astronaut on Essex Road. Switching between walking down the street and standing behind a large shop-window, the astronaut appears to be a test of tolerance and openness towards something unusual, unfamiliar and unexpected. Passers-by, attracted and bemused by the bizarre sight, become participants in this brief encounter.

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