Thursday, May 04, 2006

Did Priya Pathak Ever Get Her Wallet Back?

'We've had a few technical problems.'
Richard Dedomenici's lecture begins with this declaration. It's not part of the lecture, he's telling the truth. The projector they have set up for the night has a slight focus problem and is distorting the images a little and cutting off the bottom 10% of the projection. It's not a big problem. Probably more disturbing and offputting for him than for the 30 or so of us in the audience.
It's a warm night and we are sitting in Studio 1 of Battersea Arts Centre. I've been trying to catch up with one of Richard's talks for ages and I've finally leveraged some time and am here.
So, technical difficultes aside, he kicks off.
He starts with a funny story about Franko B and giving blood, showing a slide of Franko, and we are all laughing and thinking we know where we are going and then he moves abruptly to that picture of Jean Charles de Menezes lying dead on the floor of the tube train in which he was mistakenly shot. It is extremely shocking. Like being the peach and getting hit with the hammer. I'm not sure he even realised himself quite the effect that was going to have.
His work often sneaks down the small, back alleyway between Mr Bad Taste's house and Mr Unacceptable's garden fence. Like a little urchin rattling a stick along the railings, seeing how long he can get away with things before someone tells him to stop. And he usually is told to stop. And it's usually the police that tell him so.
Thus tonight, the lecture is a look back at some of his many earlier works, in various states of disintegrating video and bad filming, using them as a framework to discuss whether the police, who interrupt and intervene on cue in most of these pieces, are a force for good or bad. Each video segment ends with Thank You The Police or No Thank You The Police.
Despite the quality of some of the filming, the dicky projector, Richard's sometimes slapdash approach and his fast forwarding through sequences, there's some great stuff. There's even some footage, purportedly shot at Greenham Common when the Women's Peace Camp was down there and his mother took him along. It's quite unexpectedly moving. There's also a great piece of film of him wandering round Chicago with a plastic bag over his face and his hands secured behind his back. The allusion to torture is shocking again but I can't help but be caught up in the film itself - the sunshine and the noise and the very real sense of being there... the people and the background to all this's a great archive. It's a history of him...
Anyway, in the end, the No Thanks and the Thanks equal out, but for the question over Priya Pathak's wallet. Richard found it and handed it in to the police. Did she get it back? Maybe one day we'll know. This piece is an attempt to reach out and find her. Maybe you know her?
Once the piece is over I go shake the man's hand. He's done a good piece despite the pressures of the technical stuff. He is quite palpably relieved. I have to go, otherwise I would buy him six trays of drinks. He is taking some deep breaths and I get the picture above.
Already his mind is on tomorrow night's performance.
I wonder: Did Richard Dedomenici Ever Get His Projector To Work Properly?


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