Cleave/Soft Bullets

Multimedia installation by Russell Mills with sound design by Russell Mills and Mike Fearon.
The Studio, The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, Cumbria.
Conceived to accompany the one-person exhibition of paintings and assemblages Extended Wings by Russell Mills for the Warehouse Gallery, The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, Cumbria.

//Gallery// //Sound//

Extracts from a Press Release
Cleave/Soft Bullets is a split installation concerned with both the perceived and the hidden dichotomies between the urban and the rural, with dislocation and uncertainty - psychologically, spiritually and physically. Partly inspired and informed by the myriad of confused responses to the Foot and Mouth crisis of 2001, the installation seeks to suggest the need for us to consider the primacy of process as displayed in Nature's hand writing as a possible analogue for culture's evolution.

A video of natural phenomena, transformed by various permutations of camera angles and film speeds - waterfalls and fire filmed upside down, waves in extreme close up and extreme slow motion. Projected onto a wall at one end of the gallery, the film gently loops and unfolds, providing a space for calm focus and meditation on the unashamed beauty and wonder of the elements.

Alluding to the urban experience, two slide projectors mounted one above the other, housed in a specially devised rotating "Interference Mirror" cabinet, project a series of 160 hand painted 35mm transparencies onto the opposite end wall. Abstracted images of highly saturated colours ceaselessly revolve, randomly colliding and colluding at high speed, sweeping from left to right and simultaneously from left to right.

Spotlit on the two side walls are two specially commissioned complementary poems by Paul Farley* which similarly reflect on the urban and the rural. The configuration of all elements in the installation obliges the audience to occupy the centre of the gallery and continually turn 180 degrees in order to view the deliberately separated events.

A six CD, twelve speaker, non-synchronous sound work mixes randomly in real time. Individual sounds sourced from both urban and rural environments are subjected to transformations via the potential of current recording studio technology to produce an ever-changing otherworldly sonic environment. Two conflicting families of sound, one slow and languorous, the other fast and uncertain, interact and blend so as to emphasise the feeling of dislocation and uncertainty. All sounds are mixed and treated so as to give them varying wide stereo separations, which move ceaselessly and unpredictably, throughout the gallery in 3D.

*Paul Farley won the Forward Prize for Poetry in 1998 with his first collection and a year later he was the Sunday Times Writer of the Year. He was Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust from 1999 until 2002. In 2002 he was shortlisted for the Forward Prize again and in 2003 he won the Whitbread Award for Poetry with his collection The Ice Age.

The Cleave

Did Moses Mossop sit above Bowmanstead
with this book in early nineteenth-century rain?
He might have done: one drop blurs his entry
in this knackered Shepherd's Guide, where Herdwicks graze
identically on every recto side
but for a second running through the press
that added the earmarks, and so identified
each flock to owner, and kept things up-to-date;

and sheltering by a sheepfold's leeward wall
he might have studied this on afternoons
of deepening lows, when drizzle was broadcast
across each chapter - Seascale to Subberthwaite -
where flockmasters, whose names are listed here,
were scattered under blackthorns, out on fells
further than any eye could see. And Moses
might well have held the future in his hands

admiring these perfect, printed sheep,
his mind breeding a May of perfect lambs;
or thumbed its pages quickly so the ears
flickered to life and leapt like inky flames,
and with such animations passed his hours
as mine do, stuck in this dark hostel
with its puzzles and whodunnits; all the paths
taped off and bleached, the scene of some huge crime.

Paul Farley


Let this be a warning to the world.
The strobe and klaxon: installation art
as hell's innermost, track-lit circle.
You might look down and read this in the pit
of fire, waist deep in a fightened herd
running like a river at night; might smell
something like a deep singed eyebrow; in this dark wood
of semantics and signifiers, could feel
your way like firemen in gutted buildings,
listening to the blood corkscrewing the ears
and glass clicks underfoot, and find the wiring
originally to blame for all of this ...
Or maybe not - even warnings to the world
are competing for our time - in which case leave
by the designated exits, calm and filled
with the sense that this was art; this was called 'Cleave'.

Paul Farley

© Poems copyright of Paul Farley










Cleave/Soft Bullets CD
  2004-05 © Russell Mills design: