Sail yourselves down to Spike Island.

Bristol’s native contemporaries have new offerings that will be running until 16th June (you might even need sunnies by then!)

As one of two final installments as a solo production company, Picture This will be joining Spike. This will result in a new film and video department within Spike, taking on their AV equipment hire, production and post-production services. A group show curated by artist James Richards opening on 6 July and Pley are their final projects. With this new chapter in Spike’s story and having fallen in love with the Becky Beasley’s Spring Rain and her subtle minimalist combo of humour and intellect, I was curious to see what was next…

Cara Tolmie works across performance, film, audio and installation to explore the ways in which meaning is created and in particular, how context alters our reception and our personal understanding of events, which is interesting when we ourselves are forever only picking up fragments of information bursting at the seams of our tabs and webpages..

Pley itself, has the camera lens and viewer confined inside a structure specifically designed by the artist, hosting a series of encounters between three apparent strangers. The camera frame restricts your view of the structure, which is comprised of two closed areas, one inside the other. On top of this, at no point while watching the film does the viewer see beyond it. You struggle to understand any proper function, while its internal architecture remains ambiguous.

While it is made clear that some unknown set tasks have been undertaken by Tolmie’s devised characters who seem to know nothing of or about one another, everything is effectively and deliberately left undocumented.

Fragments of the interviews from the participants, by the artist strangely ties them all together after the isolation of their experience within the structure. Watching the participants reflect on their assumptions about each other, about Tolmie herself and about the tasks they were asked to fulfill makes no more sense of any particular purpose. This leaves you with plenty to deal with in your own reflections and perception of events and responses.

The non-linear edit interweaves the participants’ reactions and interpretations with sequences filmed with a fourth person: an actress marking time in the set. The woman appears to report back and reconnect with the outside world via her phone. We see her characteristics quickly seem to shift as she reveals different personas. It is through these scenes that we glimpse aspects of the set and its various props, such as a heap of gravel and a fish tank filled with water, mud and stones, which also may have been used previously by the three participants in their activities. Moving between the self assured actions of the actress and the dreamlike recollections of the participants, the film shifts our perceptions of what constitutes naturalistic and non-naturalistic behaviours.

Throughout the entire experience there is also a very unusual soundtrack, created by the artist, adding an almost David Lynch type feeling of tension, but you’ll have to get yourselves down here to hear for yourselves!

Whatever it is that we choose to take from the visual information that is given to us through Tolmie’s Pley, it still remains ambiguous but I know that it has left me asking questions about perceptions of all sorts of events and information that we happen to be on the receiving end of…

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