London

Anthony Wilson

Anthony Reynolds Gallery

Although each image projected by a carousel slide projector is separated from the next by a short interval of darkness, the sequential flow provides a satisfying narrative structure. Coupled with this, the rotation of the slide tray ultimately affords a kind of closure as it returns full cycle to the point of origin. Anthony Wilson exploits this to the fullest, structuring his slide pieces so that these qualities are emphasized at the same time that the promise of pleasure they hold out is deferred, frustrated, or altogether thwarted. He pushes the technology of the slide projector to the limit, edging it toward the filmic. The split-second projection time, in fact, is so short that it is sometimes difficult to read the image.

His latest show, entitled “Positions of Mastery,” contained two works. Don’t wait for love (both works 1991) used an image, excerpted from a ’50s ad, of the lower part of a man’s right leg: the hem of a coat, a neatly pressed trouser leg, and a polished leather shoe. A less distinct head is also visible in the frame, apparently bending down toward the shoe. Two things make the detail of the head more difficult to decipher. First, even though the piece uses only one image repeated for its duration, each time it appears it is divided differently, as though it were on a television screen suffering from vertical roll. Second, just as one adjusts to this and begins to learn where to look, the flow of images is interrupted by one or two blank slides before the roll is resumed. Sometimes in these intervals the words of the title, “DON’T/WAIT/FOR/LOVE” are punched into the blackness. The final element of the piece is a tape loop—a halting collage of sound-track music suggestive, mainly of thriller and suspense narratives. Sounds one associates with approaching menace resolve into a light, sustained chord, but this moment of revelation discloses nothing as the image continues its incessant migration to the accompaniment of renewed sounds of menace.

The second work, Whats that look supposed to mean, has a binary rather than a cyclical structure, albeit one that is fractured. It disturbs the viewer’s equilibrium, raising the desire for some moment of finality to an extreme pitch as it progresses. Two people, both wearing mirrored shades, were photographed looking at one another so that the reflections in the lenses create an infinite regression. Wilson then transposed the left and right halves of the picture. As it is projected on the wall the image, which appears skewed (now to one side, now to the other) is combined with the rhythmic click of the machine. Here, the endlessly repetitive circularity is almost comforting since the back-and-forth ticktock of machine and image are disturbed by the image’s internal contradictions and the open-endedness of the text. Although their glasses reflect one another, the figures are back-to-back, each looking away from and not toward his or her partner. The look is not received, there is no reciprocity. The text is similarly incomplete: “WHATS/THAT/LOOK/SUPPOSED/TO/MEAN,” shorn of a question mark, remains unresolved. It is directionless, yet infinitely suggestive.

Michael Archer