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Crystal & Flame (2010). Four channel synchronized (1920x1080) HD video, sound. Ch I - 30:56 min; Ch II - 38:15 min; Ch III/IV - 24:53 min.Installation view PEER, London, 2010. © C. Dorley-Brown

This intricate, multifaceted work takes its cue from a quote from the writer, Italo Calvino, in his ‘Six Memos for the Next Millennium’. In this, Calvino describes the transformative properties of fire and the phenomenon of crystallisation as exemplars of natural forces that echo the competing energies at work in the contemporary city. Within the weave of the piece itself, form emerges out of flux before becoming re-cast and reforged. Embodying this process is the filmed rehearsal of a theatre play, in which the director (as surrogate for the artist) endeavours to harness the parallel efforts and instincts of the actors, balancing the creative virtues of improvisation with the demands of the script. A further layer of meaning is bestowed by the play itself, adapted from a short story by Chekhov. In its ambiguous stance on the merits and the limits of freedom, it contrasts a Utopian desire to both seize and change the moment with a sombre apprehension of the role of fate. Two iconic video sequences bookend the rehearsal footage. In one, a precious stone is honed and polished in the sanctum of a gem-cutter’s studio. In the other, a conversation ensues in the home-from-home of a local Turkish restaurant, the evident warmth of the gathering stoked by simple food from a rudimentary grill. The mood cools, and the food loses some its appeal, as one of the protagonists talks (at great length) of a film he aims to make, which addresses the tragedy of rural poverty and culminates in a scene where the daughter of a peasant family dies after the donkey she is riding wanders into a minefield.
Steven Bode (2011)