BY Gregor Muir in Reviews | 01 SEP 96
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Issue 26

Hilary Lloyd

BY Gregor Muir in Reviews | 01 SEP 96

As part of the Imprint series of artists' publications and ephemera, Hilary Lloyd produced a staple-bound book entitled E1 (1994); a reference to the Whitechapel area where she is frequently chatted-up by East End lads. 7/7/93 9 p.m. A red Escort full of boys sped past. One of them hung his head out of the window and shouted, 'Nice tits, but they're flat'. Another entry reads: 27/7/93 I was on the number 15 bus when the man sitting next to me moved closer and said, 'How far are you going?' 'Here,' I replied. 'Here?' 'Yes.' 'You're getting off here?' 'Yes.' 'Oh, do you have to?' 'Yes' 'Ah, that's a shame'. After 14 such accounts we get the impression that Lloyd is no ugly-mug. However, this is not an exercise in self-perpetuating vanity, but an attempt to describe the men through the passes they make. As we get to know them, we get to know something about the area, home to Jack the Ripper and street prostitution. We also get to know Lloyd, who comes across as a Björk-like child surrounded by randy Post Office workers and kerb-crawlers.

Constantly stared at, Lloyd has become something of an expert voyeuree. To date, her video work forms a compulsive study of striking and sexually ambiguous characters: models, transvestites, rollerbladers and dancing sisters. Felix, as featured in Lloyd's video installation Felix and Frederic (1995), is her latest discovery, an androgynous waif who, like Brett Anderson from Suede, sports a severe wedge haircut. As is often the case with her subjects, Lloyd first met Felix in a West End nightclub where, she claims, he sat motionless for over an hour - look who's staring! Eventually, Lloyd sidled up to him and asked if he would appear in a video. They met up a few days later when he introduced her to his friend Frederic, a chubby man. Effeminate yes, but hardly androgynous. Together, they share a belief in tree spirits which goes some way towards explaining the film's location - Epping Forest.

Positioned on a stretch of green carpet, a large box-shaped monitor shows one continuous shot of Felix lying on his side in the undergrowth. He blinks, eats mushrooms, sighs, and plays with his hair. Frederic, a demented Oberon in a crown and cape, appears on a tiny monitor perched on an eight foot high stand in the corner of the gallery. Occasionally, the smaller monitor shows Frederic and Felix re-enacting a bizarre play - these are the rushes. The other half of the gallery is handed over to Ewan (1995), an overtly 'techie' installation which consists of hi-fi speakers, a tape deck, video players and a stack of aluminium flight cases. The arrangement centres on two monitors placed back-to-back. One shows Ewan - a South London DJ - mixing records in his bedroom, the other, shows him doing the same at the Escape club in Brighton. In both instances he plays exactly the same set: New York Garage, Handbag and House. Taped beforehand, the music blares out through speakers, adding to the overall impression that everything is in synch. As in good comedy, the key to this installation is the timing - BPMs to be exact. So much so that whenever Ewan alters the speed control on a record deck he dictates the duration of the entire piece.

Both installations compound Lloyd's love affair with her subjects. Should the mass of electrical equipment resemble a band on stage, then these are her teenage idols. At times it's hard to tell whether they merely provide an excuse for Lloyd's 'day in the life' approach to film making - more likely it is the other way round - but it is clearly to her advantage that real-time film, which rarely loops within the hour, legitimises their presence within the gallery. Certainly this is true of the monitor which shows Felix lying on his side in the undergrowth. Forever onscreen, it's as though he were right there in person lying on the carpet. Compared to the much earlier E1 - which may have been a self-portrait after all - the recent work paints Lloyd as a wide-eyed alien child with some additional Warholian quirks. Felix is a reaaal beauty and, as with Warhol's numerous screen tests and lengthy films, the glutinous amount of time handed over to characters such as his forms the basis of Lloyd's self-styled portraiture. But then Hilary Lloyd loves Brett Anderson - maybe it's as simple as that.

Gregor Muir is director of collection, international art, Tate. He lives in London, UK.