James Nguyen and Yin Lan Soon: Call////Response (C.2) (2015)

Clap, thump. The camera pans slowly and two performers, one in black, one in white, take turns walking and clapping along an underpass footpath. The sound reverbs. A simple score.

Moving in a single continuous take — right, pause, left, pause — the camera traces the movement of each performer, embodying a familiar action central to walking the suburbs — oscillating as a person would, checking the way is clear of oncoming traffic.

Momentarily everything becomes black and depthless, except for a patch of blue sky and gum tree branches at the top-left of the screen. Nguyen cleverly harnesses late afternoon shadow on one side of the underpass with an analogue fade-out that adds complexity to the continuous take. This patch is so alluring and bowerbird-bright you feel you could almost snip it out, a badge to pin on your chest or a postcard to send home, wherever that is.

With each camera sweep, there is little by way of traffic as such although there are occasionally cars, which offer a surprising sense of comfort when they appear. Other lives going about other kinds of business. The scene would feel creepy without them, the setting too loaded. Too Australian Gothic.

The uncontrolled compositional elements of this video — the cars, the brief flash of another walker with a pram protectively draped in a white shroud — reassure us that this is not a badland, at least in the afternoon. In film we are used to the underpass as a site for ripping bongs, sleeping rough or writing graffiti. Call///Response (C.2) doesn’t ignore or attempt to mask these kinds of narratives — colourful graffiti and the letters FKN hang in the background — even as it meditates on a differently idle and intimate slice of the everyday. Emily Stewart

20 June 2017
Close

Join our e-dition list

Sign up to our weekly online e-ditions offering timely reviews and articles, curated selections from our archive, the latest news, the best of forthcoming shows and giveaways.