Twenty Six Things is a 16mm film commissioned by the Wellcome Collection. Twenty Six Things is based on a memory game. The film is a series of static long shots, showing a formation of 26 mysterious objects - all artefacts drawn from the Wellcome Collection - laid out against darkness. Between each shot is an interval of black. During each blackout, the configuration is marginally changed.
Twenty Six Things is a study in forms of attention. It is a filmic still life, a classic tabletop, emphasizing the tactility and luminosity of its objects. It uses strictly analogue means – film, light, objects, table – and through the suppression of other information, creates a shift between analogue and digital representation. Pattern recognition, naming the unfamiliar, visualization, sleight of hand - all come into play. The film is accompanied by a suite of notes suggestive of notes played on the rims of musical glasses, and referencing another (unseen) set of objects activated by touch, their differences audible in pitch and timbre. The audio was made digitally in collaboration with the Amsterdam based composer Andy Moor.
Methodology: The piece grew of an invited period of research into the Wellcome archive and mines the richness of the collection. Archives function through taxonomy: their objects delineated by type. In Twenty Six Things, the objects are unidentified, linked only by their presence in this highly miscellaneous collection, and selected for physical presence, tactility, texture and shape. All the objects can be held in the hand. An archive operates when everything is known and catalogued. It requires things to stay in place. The objects in Twenty Six Things are both static and mobile. Their movement is covert. They bide their time and, in darkness, slip their places.
The film was shot on colour 16mm, transferred onto DVD, looped. Filming took place at the Wellcome Trust depository, Blythe House in London on 10th and 12th March 2008. The DOP was Belinda Parsons, director Marion Coutts, assisted by the curator Lucy Shanahan who was responsible for handling the objects. The work was presented as a single-screen projection in a self-contained, purpose built room within the Wellcome Collection Gallery.
Moor, Andy (Composer) and Parsons, Belinda (Photographer)
Impact: Solo exhibition at The Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, NW1 2BE. (29.05.08 – 29.06.08)
Subsequent showing: Artprojx Cinema at the SVA Theatre, New York, in association with The Armory Show & VOLTA NY, MARCH 1-6 2011, SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street
Public panel discussion (16.06.08) with Marion Coutts (artist) Lucy Reynolds, (Writer and Independent Film Programmer), Gill Hedley, (Independent Curator) and Dr Hugo Spiers (psychologist: Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences, UCL)
Publication: Marion Coutts, Twenty Six Things. Printed poster designed by A Practice for Everyday Life to accompany the exhibition
Funding: Wellcome Collection: including R&D, film shoot, edit, digital transfer, fees, equipment hire, install and build. Total funding £34,000