This new exhibition by artist Hetain Patel consisted of two film works: a major new commission, Don’t Look At The Finger (2017), commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella with Manchester Art Gallery and QUAD, and The Jump (2015).
These works continue the artist’s recent fascination with staging archetypal Hollywood action scenes within domestic settings. Employing the characteristic humour in all Patel’s work, the films, crafted into a single multi-screen installation, create an immersive cinematic experience that is in turns playful, suspenseful and occasionally ominous. Shot with production values that emulate Hollywood feature films, both works feature an original orchestral soundtrack by composer Amy May that Patel employs to push the installation into epic realms.
The Jump connects the widely-recognised fantasy of action and superhero films with the domestic setting of his British Indian family home in Bolton, in the UK. Featuring 17 of his family members, the film is shot in Patel’s Grandmother’s home, the house that he and all of his relatives have lived in at various points since moving to the UK, and where his Grandmother still resides. Featuring Patel’s homemade replica Spider-Man costume, The Jump presents two different view points of the artist leaping, suited up, in slow motion that is so slow it sometimes feels like a moving photograph.
Don’t Look at the Finger is, at one level, an exploration of how the highly stylised genre conventions of Hong Kong martial arts movies have permeated the mainstream through the influence of directors like Quentin Tarantino and in blockbusters like The Matrix. It is also a reminder of how some of the highly specific signature symbols of historical cultural traditions and languages can become interestingly blurred and entangled in today’s hybrid and eclectic visual landscape. Shot in a church, Don’t Look at the Finger presents a wedding ceremony where bodies speak physically, where the protagonists seek human connection through ritual, combat and signed languages.
Encompassing the UK, North America, South and East Asia, and West Africa, the confluence of culturally specific reference points inform the fluid relationship between reality and fiction that we see in these works by Patel, featuring specially made costumes, choreography, language and music that each question their own origins.