The Inoperative Community

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 (Ericka Beckman: 'You The Better', 1983. Courtesy the artist and Raven Row)
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Ericka Beckman: 'You The Better', 1983. Courtesy the artist and Raven Row
 (Leslie Thornton: 'Peggy and Fred in Hell: Folding', 1984-2015. Courtesy the artist and Raven Row)
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Leslie Thornton: 'Peggy and Fred in Hell: Folding', 1984-2015. Courtesy the artist and Raven Row
 (Leslie Thornton: 'Peggy and Fred in Hell: Folding', 1984-2015. Courtesy the artist and Raven Row)
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Leslie Thornton: 'Peggy and Fred in Hell: Folding', 1984-2015. Courtesy the artist and Raven Row
 (Luke Fowler: 'Depositions', 2014. Courtesy the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow)
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Luke Fowler: 'Depositions', 2014. Courtesy the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow
 (Luke Fowler: 'Depositions', 2014. Courtesy the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow)
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Luke Fowler: 'Depositions', 2014. Courtesy the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow
 (Ericka Beckman: 'You The Better', 1983. Courtesy the artist and Raven Row)
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Ericka Beckman: 'You The Better', 1983. Courtesy the artist and Raven Row

Inoperative Community? Unreviewable exhibition, more like. There are over 50 hours of material in this show of ‘experimental narrative film’. The programme in the screening-room changes daily, while single-work galleries run pieces that last several hours, on average. So, while the accompanying catalogue optimistically encourages you to watch each work from start to finish (yes, even Lav Diaz’s ‘Melancholia’, which clocks in at an extravagantly tedious eight hours), the reality is that you generally drift between rooms, experiencing random segments. In other words, the footage I watched during my visit is almost certain to be completely different from what’ll be playing during yours.

In a way, though, and rather cleverly, perhaps that’s the point. The exhibition’s theme is community, after all. But a community isn’t a real, concrete thing, but an abstraction, a fantasy, something that exists only in the mind. Just as it would be impossible to meet or even identify every member of a particular community, so it’s impossible to view everything in this show. In both cases, all you get is a kind of diffuse, highly personal impression.

Curatorial conceits aside, there are some nice individual works on display: Ericka Beckman’s 1980s, special-effects-laden ‘You the Better’, in which crazy, incomprehensible team games are used as a metaphor for social systems; or ‘Depositions’, a contemporary film by Luke Fowler, where he inserts his own, jarringly edited footage into ’70s documentaries about Scottish Highlanders. Though it’s also worth noting that these are two of shortest pieces, both lasting around half an hour. In the end, after all those fragments of longer films, there’s a lot to be said for the simple pleasure of seeing something all the way through.

By: Gabriel Coxhead

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