Barber, George

Barber first gained acclaim in the mid 1980s as a pioneer of Scratch Video making low-tech video pieces composed of found footage which he deconstructed in an effort to display them as contradicting their intended purposes.

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The consensus on video artist George Barber is that his work falls snugly into two distinct genres. The first of these centres on his pioneering and extremely influential ‘Scratch Video’ experiments (works such as Absence of Satan, Tilt and Yes Frank, No Smoke) – bravura sound-and-image confections using appropriated and re-edited footage, whose visual élan and feel for music and syncopation is also found in a related series of more or less abstract or patterned pieces (1001 Colours Andy Never Thought Of, Arizona, Effervescence etc). A second, parallel strand of activity, on the other hand, revolves around a number of narrative micro-dramas, generally in monologue form – works such as Walking Off Court, Passing Ship, Withdrawal or The Venetian Ghost, which take a moment in Barber’s or another’s life and, by describing it in some detail, reach out towards larger, shared truths about the nature and challenge of being human. These, and a concurrent series of real-world physical ‘experiments’ – resolutely actual, unmediated events in which individuals are pitched into everything from extreme shouting contests to inverse suspensionfrom vehicles (Shouting Match, Upside Down Minutiae, River Sky or the very successful Automotive Action Painting (TATE Britain 2006) – are also distinguished by the way they reveal the nature of their construction, but are each many miles away from the manipulated virtuality of his Scratch tapes’ pop-cultural source material. He has also recently been commissioned to write and direct a feature film from the Film Council entitled, The Children of Marx & Coca-Cola. Embracing both the poetic and the absurd, and always evolving, Barber remains an original talent. Gareth Evans, excerpt from George Barber (London: Film & Video Umbrella, 2005)


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