‘Type Motion’ at FACT Liverpool from 13 Nov 2014-8 Feb 2015 is a strange beast, a kind of survey show of animated type, ranging from concrete poetry to contemporary pop videos.
On entering the first exhibition gallery, where 24 works are shown across 7 screens, I felt as if I’d entered the futuristic city of Ridley Scott’s ‘Bladerunner.’ Mirrored walls add to the visual and auditory cacophony of 7 simultaneous works. This curation is intentional, I realised, as I read the gallery hand out which describes typemotion films that create ‘virtual architecture reminiscent’ of ‘cities flooded with adverts.’ The trouble is, a lot of selected works – to my mind at least – don’t invite or benefit from this visual overload. Films such as ‘Text/Image’ by Josef Linschinger and ‘ICI’ by Stephen Groß are subtle and slow. The works are installed without attention to their individual nuances and the set up made it hard to watch them without distraction.
An attempt to deal with this was made in the second, upstairs gallery where you could explore an archive of over two hundred films on an ‘interaction station’. This station – developed by xm:lab – was quite a technical wonder with films organised chronologically in different categories, including ‘Music Video’, ‘TV avant-garde,’ and ‘Fluxus,’ all operated by touch screen. It was a great resource with information provided about each film. However there was only one station controlling projections on two screens. I overheard a staff member showing a group around explaining that at any one time, there could be up to 10 people adding films to the two playlists. She suggested that this installation plus another interactive piece (where you could fly across a virtual cityscape to discover films) were aimed at a younger, teenage audience. I couldn’t help thinking that as a teenager I’d have been annoyed to select films only to have them cancelled or skipped by another visitor, even if they were my friend or classmate – just as I do now. Thankfully I visited on a quiet day when snow was keeping many people away from the gallery. So I had the luxury of spending a couple of hours viewing films from the archive, with only the occasional interruption. The joy of this format is that you can navigate to what interests you; so I spent my time watching Dada, concrete poetry and experimental artists’ video with a few forays into film titles and advertisements. I watched some great pieces including ‘Word Movie’ by Paul Sharits and various works by Len Lye I’d seen some of before as well as many new discoveries such as work by Paul Glabicki and FluXus Heidelberg.
The collection of work is remarkable and a huge amount of research has evidently gone into putting this project together. It’s a shame the archive is not accessible outside the gallery – although apparently a publication/catalogue is forthcoming. For now, at least, I have a long list of names of artists and designers to research further in the relative quiet of my home.