digital video installation, 2008/2010, two loops, 5' / 7'30"
‘If you don’t do anything bad’ was shot in Beijing in July 2007 on DV. The piece features disparate footage arranged in a series of loosely-thematised sections, suggesting an episodic narrative or journey. Throughout this narrative, signs of ‘otherness’, whilst presented to the lens, are not explained or decoded. What explanations are given (for example, an unseen voice tells us that people are still burning coal in July) are non-sequiturs, linking with no greater explanation. We see peacocks still in their cages at an abandoned zoo, a man squatting in an entirely demolished village, and unexplained numbers scrawled on walls, on posters and signs, on railings and even on the ground.
The soundtrack adds to this effect, mixing location sound (including some music) with separately recorded ambient and ‘instrumental sounds’ recorded in Belfast – not music as such, but a suggestion of it. In past work over the last decade I’ve been interested in the connections between music and image and the manner in which music can manipulate a viewer, or add a particular ‘affect of meaning’ to filmed footage. Recent work experiments with stripping this musical accompaniment down to mere sounds, leaving a greater ‘narrative gap’ for the viewer to complete.
This idea of a narrative gap flows throughout the film, which functions in some ways as an anti-documentary. Whilst it uses ‘documentary’ (that’s to say, non-staged) footage, the piece rejects the ‘truth claim’ of documentary, to be able to reveal its subject to the viewer in a naturalistic manner. Rather, influenced by ideas regarding the unknowability and priority of the other, the piece seeks meaning beyond that which is simply visible, or audible, and through its structure and composition it strives to frustrate an always relentless exoticising gaze.
The title comes from a saying about the achievements and methods of the Chinese Communist Party: a sentiment similar to our proverb that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
This piece is presented as a 2-screen installation, with one loop projected on the wall and the other shown on a small TV or monitor.
© Daniel Jewesbury