BY Ingrid Chu in Reviews | 01 JAN 00
Featured in
Issue 50

Euan Macdonald

BY Ingrid Chu in Reviews | 01 JAN 00

Despite its title, nothing really happens in Euan Macdonald's exhibition 'everythinghappensatonce'. Apart from a few small drawings, a 30-minute floor-to-ceiling colour video projection house (1999) dominates the exhibition.

Macdonald shot a single view of a dilapidated boathouse, which hovers precariously on the edge of a lake as if threatening to take a permanent dip. Little in the way of action is provided to disturb what is essentially a video still or a virtual landscape painting. Only after enough time has elapsed to convince viewers that a single image constitutes the work in its entirety, without any audible warning a boat speeds across the screen - first in, then out, of the frame. Although this seemingly random glitch lasts a fraction of a second, it is long enough to imply a narrative.

Macdonald's straightforward composition, basic narrative and frequent use of digitally enhanced video loops lends his practice a certain continuity. Perhaps best known for paintings and drawings of palm trees, aeroplanes and artery-like cityscapes, Macdonald likes to examine the plot lines of human experience. Sometimes dull and painted on metal or plastic, sometimes sparkling with glitter dust on paper, the artist almost always minimises elements in order to maximise their effect.

Though his videos generally concentrate on a central repetitive element within a fixed set of circumstances, in this work Macdonald incorporates an unnatural horizon line that splices the land from water. This shifts house from the realm of a documentary into the realm of mediated imagery. As the situation presents itself both to the artist and to the viewer, Macdonald is able to rely less (or less obviously) on technology to suggest a cyclical sequence of events. By virtue of simply standing still and staying focused, he proves how truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

What Macdonald encapsulates in house is an eternal state of arrested development. Everything surrounding this decrepit dwelling - from the dense foliage hovering in the background to the choppy water looming in the foreground - anticipates its collapse. Only as time elapses does the unlikelihood of this demise reveal itself. By introducing the boat into the scene as a foreign element, Macdonald offers us the possibility of multiple realities, simultaneous truths and their potential for coexistence. His offering serves as a quiet reminder of time passing even when it appears to be standing still.

The video's leisurely pace highlights the artist's restraint. Instead of focusing on 'everything', Macdonald simply concentrates on one thing to get his point across. Using simple techniques and minor digital alterations, house acts as a filter to the gluttony of images that fill our lives, streamlining the process of seeing by clarifying what images have come to represent.

However enticing events may be off-camera, house tracks the inevitability of all things passing. Macdonald states 'There's an old joke and it goes like this: time exists so that things don't always happen at once. Space exists so that things don't always happen to you. Given our inclination to get-up-and-go, 'everythinghappensatonce' is enticing because it offers the relief of just standing still.

Ingrid Pui Yee Chu is a Hong Kong-based curator, writer and, with Savannah Gorton, co-founder and director of the non-profit commissioning organization Forever & Today, Inc.