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Subscriber: null; date: 18 January 2020

Wood & Harrisonlocked

  • Andrew Cross

English sculptors, video artists and performance artists. John Wood (b Hong Kong, 18 June 1969) and Paul Harrison (b Wolverhampton, 30 November 1966) both graduated as painters from Bath College of Higher Education and began working together in 1993. Their collaborative video works involve both artists performing bizarre but very simple actions. While referencing the early videos and performances of Bruce Nauman or Charles Ray, the humour and irony of their work is more reminiscent of British television comedy of the 1960s and 1970s. In 3 legged (1996; see D. Batchelor and C. Esche) the two protagonists are seen tied together at the ankle and confined within a simple wooden shelter while an automatic tennis server shoots balls at them; the two tussle in idiotic fashion while trying to avoid each ball. All their collaborative works examine their intimate physical collaboration or their relationship to a particular physical environment. Device (1996; see D. Batchelor and C. Esche) shows six vignettes of a body under the command of a range of Minimalist structures or devices. Such dramas are always acted out in a pure white space suggestive of scientific experiments, but their actions are not measured against anything except the viewers’ own experience. Although all their works suggest a confrontation with aggressive assertions of male behaviour, an overt comment on masculinity is avoided through comedy. While their struggles might not at first appear to be extreme, heroic, or tragic, ultimately they are absurd and commonplace. The sculptural component of their videos, both in terms of content and manner of presentation, is explored together in Obstacle Course (exh. Southampton, U. Southampton, John Hansard Gal., 1999; see 1999 exh. cat.), in which six objects on a human scale, reminiscent of models for gymnasium equipment, contain or support a video monitor. Interconnecting narratives of figures negotiating (or failing to negotiate) the course are provided by a separate sound track and video.

Bibliography

  • Obstacle Course & other works (exh. cat. by S. Bode, Southampton, U. Southampton, Hansard Gal., 1999)
  • D. Batchelor and C. Esche: John Wood & Paul Harrison (London, 2000)