Combining Roderick Buchanan’s longstanding interests in sport and portraiture, Harriers is a four-screen video installation that highlights the efforts and commitment of unsung amateur athletes and the unseen rigours of their regular training regime.
Filmed in the immediate aftermath of a gruelling training session, a number of runners (from the local Shettleston Harriers club in Glasgow) step up to the spotlight of the camera. Attempting to compose themselves as they struggle to recover their breath, they eye the camera warily – a thousand-metre run followed by the hint of a thousand-yard stare. Grimacing with the pain of exhaustion, the athletes do not simply perspire. Drenched and glistening, their breath and sweat rise as steam into the cold night air.
This startling, almost hallucinatory sight does not detract from the unswerving realism of Buchanan’s documentary approach (here given a heightened cinematic twist with his use of 35mm film). A vivid symbol of endeavour and endurance, with its intimation of the spirit floating free of the body, this evanescent presence of their physical exertions hovers around the figures of the athletes like an aura of achievement or a badge of authenticity.