Life Fell to Earth
Posted on March 3, 2014
One of the things that some people lament about the internet is its propensity to ‘flatten’ experience. Disembodied, weightless, searching, always searching, we skim and flit over the surface of things – zero gravity, zero affect. In George Barber’s Life Fell to Earth, the speed at which we have suddenly gone over to this online universe, and its mirror-image of our small blue planet, induces a feeling of disorientation, even of vertigo, but also something strangely uplifting, as Barber summons, from this digital ether, a swirl of images whose random nature belies their unexpected emotional charge. Delicately assembled, with Barber’s usual quicksilver eye and trademark lyrical finesse, from memorial pages and other personal tributes posted to YouTube and elsewhere, and combined with other free-floating matter from all parts of the web, this evocative twelve-minute video is further embellished with sampled music and other found text. Channeling the magpie sensibilities of Kurt Schwitters and other pioneers of collage, Barber invests Schwitters’ Merz aesthetic with a profound sense of weltschmerz (a sadness and despair at the sorrows of the world), creating an elegy to mortality and human fallibility that echoes Rilke in its melancholy intensity. Falling headlong into an uncertain future, weighed down by a past they can never quite escape, Barber’s images deftly evoke the ‘long tail’ of the internet and quietly underscore it with a low, plangent wail of nostalgia and loss.
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella for MerzBank. Courtesy waterside contemporary, London.