A Record of Undying at Vivid Projects is an exhibition that deals head on with an often-avoided topic: death. It is a powerful show that is frank and open.
Entering the dimly lit exhibition space, you come face-to-face with the final illness and eventual passing of artist D. John Briscoe, the partner of artist-curator George Saxon. I found the works, from a distance, quite chilling. On one wall a black and white video of Saxon scattering his lover’s ashes in an open field plays in reverse, so that the artist appears to call back the grey cloud from the air. Nearby, the undressed skeleton of a medical bed sits silently in the gallery space, drawing your eye.
Exploring the exhibition, however, my initial chills gave way as I began to understand that this last collaboration between two artists who were partners was in some sense a celebration of their shared time. A series of intimate photos, video stills, runs along one wall, complimented in another area by their corresponding video clips. They capture intimate, emotionally charged moments between the two artists. Each image is marked by the date that it was captured, emphasising the loss of time. The images and videos, however, are displayed in reverse order, culminating not in Briscoe’s death but with an image in which the artist can be seen walking around. This resonates with the reversed video of the scattered ashes and powerfully communicates a sense of Saxon wanting to reverse what has happened, if he could.
The exhibition is brought together through the inclusion of a video work by D. John Briscoe in which he stages his own death. Blissfully Gunned Down (1980-2013) is a reworking of footage of Briscoe’s staged death in 1980 in which the artist appears to be ‘gunned down’ in the middle of a wide-open field.
A Record of Undying is a beautiful and powerful monument to Briscoe, who through the assembled works engages in one final collaboration with Saxon.
You can experience this powerful collaboration at Vivid Projects until Saturday 15 November.