Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Summer Lightnings

video stills, Summer Lightnings, 2004, (c) Victor Alimpiev
All images taken from

Encounters: Victor Alimpiev
Modern Art Oxford

15th June - 31st August 2008

Whose is this Exhalation? The title suggests a whodunit. A group of eight performers bunch together before an evacuated space. They sing: an improvised series of ascending chords. Yet one of the group remains silent, holding their breath and resisting, until their body propels them into a desperate life assuring exhalation. Each phrase of the music climaxes with this release. We watch the group comfort the sufferer whose face moves from agony back to composure. This member of the group will now join the seven singers and another member will gather their reserves to deprive themselves of air. The delicate combination care and suffering within the situation that make the work utterly compelling.

Summer Lightnings takes me back to the class activity of creating a rainstorm by scraping, scratching and knocking on school desks. Here we see a young class performing this same communal effect before the video cuts to the lateral bursts of lightening across cloud burdened skies.

Together the two videos show Alimpiev working with a diverse and intriguing vocabulary consisting of ideas of community, abstract sound, silence, and sinister or powerful natural forces.

I am curious by the idea of silence in both video works. Summer Lightning offers us an audible event that we perceive as silent. We know the violent crack of lightening but disassociate it to the name thunder. Effectively we silence the lightening.

In Whose is this exhalation? Although we are listening to the singers ascending octaves they emerge as a cruel taunt to the silence that forms the vertebrae of each phrase. We watch and listen for silence amongst the sound. Silence is more verbally potent than the prattle of sound in both pieces: it measures and orders the other forces at play.

For a short clip of Summer Lightnings go to

Video Stills, Whose is this exhalation? , 2008, (c) Victor Alimpiev

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