Emma Ota ‘Julia Dogra-Brazell’ 2016

Text for ALA/Uplink Tokyo 2016

Like the intermittent, jerky workings of the mind, the flickering sequences of Julia Dogra-Brazell’s films concentrate both an explosion and a stretching of time, memory and sensation. There is an intensity, whether it be held in the rapid succession of one image jumping from the next, or the delicately still focus on a single scene which holds us in an unending moment. We are absorbed in a rollercoaster of colliding fragments and then the sudden freeze of motion, where we are caught by our own hurtling force through the world. We are invited into different spaces and time without fully knowing where we are, and our signs of navigation constantly disturbed.

There is a means of suggestion which always refrains from the concrete, the fuzz of the analogue which counters our pursuit of transparency and high definition in the digitally driven realms of contemporary life. The texture, grain and specks of the cinematic medium pulse between under and over exposure, reminding us of the subjective filter through which we encounter our outer reality and in obstructing a certain logic allows for the reclamation of “art as a prime means of resistance to habitual modes of analysis”.

Yet this is not merely a visual reality we are confronted with. It is not only the image but the beating rhythm of sound which leads us through these splinters of time and space. The timber of the vocal narrative, the almost intrusive clarity of birdsong, the beat of a butterfly’s wings becoming a gust of wind, a sonorous throb in the depths of the gritty sea of the screen, all combine to bring us elsewhere. At times the projected image seems merely secondary to the aural experience which is spun around us and impacts upon our senses to stir up forgotten scenes and emotions of our past.

The place of literature and language is central here in this combination of visual and audio vocabularies, which yet refuse the established rules of grammar. Whether it be references to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper or Arthur Rimbaud’s poem, Guerre (War), there is a presence of the creative word which may leap as it pleases from one signifying gesture to the next and which we attempt to assimilate into a cohesive semiotics of meaning, but in which we find the linear course of history and storytelling constantly thwarted. Words are loaded but remain beyond our exacting finger.

A defining element of Dogra-Brazell’s work is what is left unspoken, what is left undepicted. The blink of the eye signifies an instant when a shutter is placed upon the world before us, and in this instant anything may happen both within us or without us. These breaks in the flow of visuals, the hesitation between one oration and the next, the sporadic and unpredictable patter of sound offers up gaps in the artist’s command and allows for an “autonomous interval where unforeseen relations occur”. It is in these spaces that our own psyche finds its screen for projection. It is this space of the “afterimage”, which appears in the blanks, in which we might touch upon the heart of this artist’s work.

© Emma Ota 2016