Critics’ Picks

Maeve Brennan, The Drift, 2017, HD video, color, sound, 50 minutes 29 seconds.


Maeve Brennan

Chisenhale Gallery
64 Chisenhale Road
March 31 - June 4

The Drift, 2017, is Maeve Brennan’s major film commission and first institutional solo exhibition. Brennan’s practice—exemplified by previous work such as Jerusalem Pink, 2015, which considered the relationship between the role of stone in Palestine and her great-grandfather’s occupation there as an architect during the British Mandate—merges serious investigative documentary practices with a sensitive and poetic relationship to using moving image as a means to create subjective and/or staged moments: footage meets fiction.

Brennan has been based between Beirut and London since 2013. The Drift explores the shifting economies of objects and materials in tandem with the sociopolitical developments of contemporary Lebanon. Multiple characters appear throughout the film: a self-taught archaeologist; the gatekeepers of the Roman temples in Niha; and a joyriding mechanic from Britel—a town in the Beqaa Valley close to the Syrian border, known for trade in used cars and historical artifacts. These objects sit at the center of the film, and the narrative arc provided by the people is important. The power of restoration is a resonant theme within The Drift, which moves effortlessly between gentle long takes of clay artifacts being slowly glued back together and frenetic moments of cars being swallowed up by clouds of dust while “drifting,” as the film’s title references—a kind of balletic, controlled speeding technique. This oscillation between intimacy and urgency is key to the beauty of Brennan’s film. It is quietly political, carefully sidestepping the singularity of mainstream media representation and creating an alternative set of images.