BY Mark Sladen in Reviews | 01 JAN 00
Featured in
Issue 50

Hilary Lloyd

BY Mark Sladen in Reviews | 01 JAN 00

A young man called Fiorenzo stands in a derelict building, flailing about with a piece of cardboard tubing. Sometimes the tube breaks, but he just picks up another from the floor and starts flailing again. He must be in his 20s, but looks like an adolescent. His body is fit, a little rangy, his manner aggressive but rather floppy and unfocused. It's kind of erotic to watch this spectacle of youthful energy consuming itself.

Fiorenzo is just one of the characters in Hilary Lloyd's exhibition of eight video monitors featuring different scenes and people. There's Dawn (all works 1999), a video of a young woman sitting in a white studio, gazing into space. And Maddy and Kate, who stand facing each other in a field, one holding a giant ball of twine while the other gradually unwinds it. Apparently Lloyd finds many of her subjects in clubs. Her performers are young and poised, people who seem to have a strong sense of personal theatre.

Dawn, for instance, is wearing a stylish double-breasted suit, but one of her breasts appears to be visible. Does she know? Would she mind? Or is it just flesh-coloured underwear? Whatever the case, you somehow assume that she is complicit in the confusion. Being a 'face' in the city means knowing how to manipulate small signs, signs that might embarrass some people and amuse others, signs that work to include and exclude different sections of your audience.

Lloyd's installation is partly about reading these small signs. Little explicit information is given about the characters on show, a restraint that seems perverse given the duration of many of these films, most of which are shot in a single long take. As you stand watching Colin in Colin #3 take off his shirt in self-imposed slow motion you wonder about his masterly concentration, about the tone of his muscles, about his trendy red tank-top, and about what his performance says about who he is.

Bright young things aren't Lloyd's only subjects. One film, Constructors, features a group of labourers on building sites, performing acrobatic stunts at the apparent request of the artist. They attempt to lift and hold each other, and in doing so reveal their awkwardness in front of the camera. They are happy with some of the holds but the intimacy of others appears to make them uneasy - they smile shyly at the viewer or laugh too loudly.

If Lloyd's work is partly about reading small signs, then they are as visible in the details of her own performance as they are in those of others. As you move between the monitors in the show you become aware of a subtle orchestration. A noisy film plays against a silent one; human dramas are contrasted with more abstract shots; the staginess of some scenes is set against the 'realness' of others. The apparent casualness of the installation begins to feel more and more self-conscious - from the heights and angles of the monitors to the arrangement of cables and cases that fill the gaps between.

Control seems to be a central issue in Lloyd's work and detail becomes the vehicle through which control is negotiated. The thing seen from the corner of the eye is what gives away the performance, but it can also be seen as the performer's own finishing touch - within a dynamic of frustration such small gifts can reinforce a system of passive control. What differentiates Lloyd's work is the way in which the artist slips between the roles of performer and spectator, and into the erotic ambiguity of their relationship.