Background actors are supposed to stay in the background. Expected to be both visible and invisible, extras are required to do something very close to nothing – nothing, above all, that will in any way distract from the leading actors’ performances. Sometimes, though, as we seek temporary distraction from our own lives in the surrogate dramas of TV soaps, a face from the shadows or a gesture from the margins may force itself forward, and, once noticed, start to dominate a scene. Lucy Clout’s video The Extra’s Ever-Moving Lips pivots on one such moment from a popular Australian television series. One of those things that stay at the back of our minds, then sporadically surface in our memories, these fleeting encounters would normally merit no more than a second thought; not only ephemeral but irretrievable. Now, of course, post-Internet, we can search for them online; which Clout does, tracking down one particular clip, before enlisting a lip reader to enlighten her about what is actually being said, and recruiting a contemporary soap star to recite the lines. Although this story of pursuit and discovery seems to act as the foreground focus of the work, Clout’s wider objective, signposted perhaps by the sprite-like animated figure that beats a mercurial path through this beguiling patchwork film, is to shed a warm, indulgent light on the background noise of contemporary life. Hymning the low-level hum of everyday chatter and witter, Clout finds within this overlooked hubbub of incidental, throwaway expression a quietly enduring measure of the people we really are when we are not busy pretending to be someone else.
12 March – 27 April 2014
4 April – 21 April 2014
Commissioned for the Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards: What Will They See of Me?. A collaboration between Jerwood Arts and FVU. In association with CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow and University of East London, School of Arts and Digital Industries. FVU is supported by Arts Council England.