Smadar Dreyfus: Lifeguards

20 January - 18 February 2006
Victoria Miro Gallery I

Information

16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW

Developed over three years of research by the artist, Lifeguards is a dual screen audiovisual installation that examines the way culture is embedded in speech and how identity is constructed through language.

The installation insists upon complete immersion of the viewer, exploring the contrasts between aural and visual perception, between sound and silence, light and darkness. In one projection we observe a group of women and children bathing at a Tel Aviv beach in complete silence. This calm is interrupted by an abrupt soundscape of lifeguards' voices instructing the bathers through their megaphones. Their speech is simultaneously translated into English subtitles across a black screen, which are precisely synchronised with the commanding voices. Through their vocal direction of the crowds, the lifeguards actually describe the scene on the beach.

Central to Lifeguards is the detachment of sound from image, which allows space for an open interpretation of the work and focuses the viewers' attention on what is left unsaid and unseen. This sense of ambiguity is generated by the subtle shifts between the protective content of the lifeguard's language and its authoritative delivery. Their prolonged calls to look out for a missing child, to be aware of the jellyfish and to stay away from the jetty are underpinned by a sense of unease. As the artist concludes: ' The seafront, a place of relaxation and perhaps reflection, is transformed into a place where the threshold of normality is redefined.'

Lifeguards is supported by Arts Council of England, Steim Foundation, Amsterdam, Projection Design, Norway, Smart Project Space, Amsterdam, and Ascent Media Group, London.

Special thanks to the Tel Aviv beach lifeguards and Municipal Beach Authority, the staff at STEIM studios Amsterdam and the 9th International Istanbul Biennial.

Smadar Dreyfus Biography

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