joanne lee



A short text on the work of Ian Helliwell for the catalogue/box accompanying the Telenesia exhibition at Quay Arts on the Isle of Wight 10 September - 15 October 2011. Exhibition curated by Julian Konczak and featuring work from Helliwell, Rosa Menkman, Anders Weberg and Jon Pigott.

Ian Helliwell’s films gaze back into a past that was previously a future. Where once the optimism of World’s Fairs and Expos prevailed, and instructional films presaged better times ahead, in his work it seems that the white heat of technology has congealed as light thickens and images glow and fade: patination and craquelure suggest a slow disintegration. His practice revels in the proximity of creation and destruction as film is subjected to cutting, bleaching and staining. A drill bit skates across the emulsion, incising tiny arcs and swirls into which colour subsequently bleeds; images reversed to negative plunge into darkness; light flares and pulses. For the soundtracks, Helliwell saves now obsolete machines from the dump: re-purposed, revived and rewired, medical equipment and games consoles are made to produce hypnotic analogue rhythms or an erratic squall; still futuristic, they throb, squeak and crackle, their communication the language of electricity, of flows and resistance. Collecting and adapting the no-longer in use (whether devices, formats or footage) and subjecting it to a variety of hand-work, Helliwell produces a sensation of the not-then but also not-now: the flicker of his homemade psychedelia develops an intimate interior space within which time is simultaneously suspended, compressed and extended. The intense materiality of these works evokes a murky dream-state, conjuring memories we never had.