LUCY RAVEN: EDGE OF TOMORROW (Serpentine Galleries & Koenig Books, 2016) published to accompany LUCY RAVEN: EDGE OF TOMORROW at Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London from 08.12.16 to 12.02.17.
For those intrigued by the production of moving images, exhibition catalogue LUCY RAVEN: EDGE OF TOMORROW is a reel treasure.
Echoing the themes of globalisation embedded throughout Raven’s recent solo exhibition at Serpentine Galleries, the book outsources much of its content. A roster of authors, artists and academics provides commentary on the exhibited artworks, screening notes for the accompanying cinema series and a collection of essays that expand Raven’s universe.
Introductory sections from Serpentine flirt shamelessly with the inflated curatorial language of the modern art galley. Exhibition catalogues have to attempt a curious straddling of tourist keepsake and academic monograph. In reality, this balancing act often stumbles: the images dazzle but the language gets ugly. As committed collectors of such things, we know that the best writing conveys complex ideas with precision. It’s a definite “must try harder” here.
The fog clears with notes explaining Raven’s artworks, bringing the exhibition back into sharp focus. Like all good special features, they expand understanding of what’s been seen. Whilst it’s hard to imbue the searching spotlights of CASTERS (2016) with the weight of meaning given by author Erika Bolsom, Andrew Lampert (SHAPE NOTES, 2016), Shaney Jhaveri (THE DECCAN TRAP, 2015), Stuart Comer (CHINA TOWN, 2009), Deborah Stratton (CURTAINS, 2014) and Thomas Beard (RP31, 2012) all bring welcome depth and detail to the pieces they write about. We can’t fairly assess Kevin McGarry’s work (I FELT AS IF I HAD ACTUALLY BEEN TO CHINA, 2007) as we didn’t see the film, but he continues the welcome trend of writing with clarity and precision.
Raven herself gives good screening notes for SERPENTINE CINEMA. Her tastes are wide-ranging, exploring methods of image production and manipulation from the computerised mechanics behind the opening titles to VERTIGO (1958) to the animated innovation of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABIT (1988). Frequently off-setting well-loved movies – BLOW OUT (1981), INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978), GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) – with accompanying shorts that cast the main feature in new light – HACKED CIRCUIT (2014), LIMBO (1966), and ANEMIC CINEMA (1926) respectively – Raven programmes imaginatively. How irritating then that her notes are printed sideways, forcing the reader to crack the spine…
The collection of essays and notes that rounds off the book deepens its value considerably. Susan Brooks (SMOKE AND BLANKETS) writes brilliantly about how changing camera technologies fundamentally affect how film stories have been told, whilst Phil Tippett writes about the peculiarities of time in stop motion animation. Of the essays we’ve read, only Evan Calder Williams (OPERATOR ERROR) writing about the shock of the new (we think) disappears into pseudo-speak.
There’s plenty more to dip into, including photographic essays by Paul Marlow, Rodrigo Corral, Glen Fogel and Jason Moran as well as archival photographs of the objects chosen by Raven for exhibition.
We’re sure we’ll keep coming back to this excellent book as it forces a fresh set of perspectives on how the making of moving images affects the meaning of those images. It deserves a place in the libraries of all those committed to works on film.
In printed pages?
LUCY RAVEN: EDGE OF TOMORROW is printed on lovely to thumb-through matte stock with a glued cover wrap. Inside there are excellent photographs of Raven’s work (some full page, some excerpts, some montage). Documenting installations can be challenging, but the approach here gives good flavour of each piece’s form and impact. Coloured papers for each section – introduction on yellow, body on white, endnotes on green – continue the tactile pleasures. As mentioned before, our only dislike is a hiccup of bad book design.
Published in 2016 by Serpentine Galleries and Koenig Books, LUCY RAVEN: EDGE OF TOMORROW is available from Serpentine’s online shop and other art booksellers. Serpentine had the best price we could find (£17.95) at time of checking.
Featured image: LUCY RAVEN: EDGE OF TOMORROW (Serpentine Galleries & Koenig Books, 2016)