Edward Thomasson: The Present Tense

  • Art
  • Film and video
1/4
'The Present Tense'

© the artist, courtesy Chisenhale Gallery

2/4
'The Present Tense'

© the artist, courtesy Chisenhale Gallery

3/4
'The Present Tense'

© the artist, courtesy Chisenhale Gallery

4/4
'The Present Tense'

© the artist, courtesy Chisenhale Gallery

Free

At the heart of Edward Thomasson’s 17-minute film lies a single incident: a middle-aged woman falls over in the street. I say ‘at the heart’, but actually the whole point of this ambitious work by the young London artist is that there isn’t really a central, defining episode. You don’t even get to see the incident itself, just the aftermath – the woman picking herself up from the pavement – along with various other stories and alternating scenarios that may or may not link together. There’s the woman herself, in a subsequent time period, whose interior monologue conveys thoughts ranging from her bruised knee to the construction project she’s working on. There’s a therapy session where a young boy, presumably some kind of traumatised witness, recreates the accident using toy figures and a sandbox. Finally, and most curious of all, there’s a performance by police officers in which they seek to humanise procedures such as stop-and-search through the medium of song.

Certainly, it’s these singing detectives that form the most compelling aspect of the film. You get the same strange sense as in musicals, where people sing about the very actions they’re performing as a sort of parallel meta-commentary – hence, presumably, the show’s title. Hence, too, the way the various characters try to verbalise or focus on what’s taking place contemporaneously around them, even as the different time frames and narratives irresolvably blur and mix together.

Sometimes, this tendency becomes a little overwhelming: the main woman’s mindfulness mantra about living in the moment, the therapist’s injunction to pull back and see the wider picture – you soon suss these as slightly heavy-handed allegories for the operations of cinema itself. That aside, there’s definitely more than enough thought and sophistication in this work to deserve anyone’s presence.

Gabriel Coxhead

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