Barbara Bloom

Barbara Bloom: Half Full – Half Empty

Barbara Bloom’s first web based project is a curious mix of a video still life which does not remain still and a soundtrack which can be switched between past, present and future versions of the same male and female voiced conversation. Human presence can be inferred throughout but is, crucially, missing; grapes disappear as if picked at, cards turn over, a teacup fills and spills, and a candle is lit and blown out. Events on the table are related to the timeline which plays out as a soundtrack in three variations.

Subjects raised in the soundtrack conversation are repeated across all three time periods but with subtle changes. Topics which provoke disagreement between the voices are expressed with varying degrees of sophistication (the amusing “Are not/Are too” exchanges of childhood give way to a more complex back-and-forth as the conversationalists age) while themes like dust on the curtains become gradually more prosaic or more poignant depending on how you switch the timeline. “Memento mori” is a phrase which repeatedly comes to mind.

Half Full - Half Empty, Barbara Bloom (2008)

Half Full - Half Empty, Barbara Bloom (2008)

The objects themselves take on a double function playing both themselves and the screen on which we catch glimpses of reflected drama. This is most obviously true in the case of the wine glasses on whose lustrous surface we see pointing silhouettes and the closing fireworks display – a remarkably successful post-production effect. Bloom herself refers to this peculiar presence/absence tension as ‘visual innuendo’. Relationships are revealed only indirectly and the majority of what we learn comes not from the content of the rapidly familiar parallel dialogues but through what is omitted or unsaid.

Digital art can be an odd experience. The work is away from the rigid control of the artist in some crucial respects; it appears on your screen in the browser you chose, it arrives via a pattern of typing and clicking unique to you, perhaps it will sit as one of a multitude of open tabs – email, work, online games… all waiting to divert your attention. Yet Half Full – Half Empty manages to be both arresting and transformative. The soundtrack from the present rings out to demand attention which is immediately repaid with scope for interaction, subtle narrative and the opportunity to be transported from whatever you might have otherwise been doing online.