9 Intervals is about dialogue. Dialogue between juxtaposing images, presented on two screens playing in tandem across the walls of Mother’s Tankstation’s gallery; dialogue between image and text, as omnipresent voice-overs talk us calmly through each and every shot. The disparate images seem mostly to be linked to the concept of posture, and particularly seated posture.
We see an unsettled, fidgeting audience being addressed by an under-confident host. An osteopath’s posture instruction video talks over the chairs of students, judges, church-goers and readers (some occupied, some not); we learn about the history of furniture according to designer Michael Marriott, and watch industrial production of chairs in the KM furniture factory. Finally, a yoga instructor talks us through a series of floor balances.
Each of these vaguely linked threads of narrative interweaves with one another, drifting in and out of play, and switching screens. The effect is quite mesmerising, dream-like: our consciousness gives way to the ebb and flow of various instructional videos and images, without really grasping what this is we’re viewing. The sense of confusion is key here: 9 Intervals is not quite a lecture, not quite an instruction manual, not quite a yoga class, but at the same time all of these things.
Despite the soothing narrative of our teachers, 9 Intervals is also quite disabling. There is the paradox of being the intended audience for a yoga video, but not being able to perform any of the movements depicted. Of being instructed about chairs in a context where it is the norm to stand. Our nervous host, who appears at the very beginning and end of the piece, and his unsettled audience, blanket the work in a sense of social awkwardness.
9 Intervals makes a little bit more sense when it is learned that it was originally just that: nine short individual works, conceived to be screened between adverts and trailers in cinemas. This did happen – at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds in 2011. Only afterwards did Froment merge the nine standalone but interlinking works together to create a longer composite piece, more suitable for gallery exhibitions.
I wasn’t at Hyde Park Picture House when any of the shorter “intervals” were screened, but I’d imagine the effect would be quite different to when viewed here. 9 Intervals thrives on awkwardness, and perhaps you’re more likely to feel awkward in a cinema, where it arrives unannounced and unexpected, than in a gallery you’ve read the press release for. We also miss out on that direct link to the shuffling audience, seated in red cinema chairs, somewhat lost on us in the white cube.
But what 9 Intervals loses out on due to its change of context, it gains from becoming an overall stronger work when viewed as a cohesive whole. What starts as a deceptively simple series of images and texts becomes increasingly complex as the narrative between them is lengthened, and more threads of meaning begin to run through it. We are forced to become more contemplative, and more fully immersed in this surreal, minimalist, structuralist, instructional universe Froment has created for us.
Aurélien Froment 9 Intervals. 16 January 16 until February 16, Mother’s Tankstation, 41-43 Watling Street, Ushers Island, Dublin, Ireland. www.motherstankstation.com
Credits: Aurélien Froment, 9 Intervals , Installation view. Image courtesy mother’s tankstation