Oliver Payne & Nick Relph - Comma, Pregnant Pause (2004)

Comma, Pregnant Pause, 2004 (27 minutes)

A comma indicates a pause or break between parts of a sentence; in
spoken communication, a pregnant pause is one that is full of meaning
– significant – suggestive. This video features mobile phones, in whose
text messages commas are seldom used. There are often, however,
pregnant pauses during the wait for a reply. This work starts with the
commentary:

‘I want to be the best there ever was, to beat all the best that's my
cause.’

The video is dominated by two seated people dressed as mobile phones.
Their costumes are based on ‘Mowbli’, the ubiquitous mobile phone logo
from Carphone Warehouse, and their faces are covered by scary-looking
masks, taken from the popular series of films Scream, 1996, 1997, 2000,
and Scary Movie, 2000, 2001, 2003, but originating in Edward Munch’s
painting, The Scream, 1893. Their conversation is indicated by two
different text alerts – ‘1,2,3,4’ and a musical sound, like a guitar or harp
– whilst each text message appears as a series of subtitles. The
conversations are fractured, featuring messages such as, ‘the newest
thing is now wearing the word’. Young people are part of a texting culture in
which messages sometimes go astray, so spoken conversation would often
be more efficient.

The background imagery varies throughout:

• a CD spinning round and multiplying to form numerous CDs
• a rotating white plastic pizza divider from the centre of a take-away box
• sunsets appropriated from the Internet
• various digitised patterns
• text in dots zooming illegibly across the screen
• a JJB Sports shop
• a black-and-white William Morris print, which becomes more and more smudged.

At times, the phones disappear, to be replaced by the legs and bicycle
wheels of passers-by, repeated as split-screen mirror images so the legs
move in a comic way. Using the same split-screen effect, American football
players are also featured.

Later on, a third person enters dressed in a black suit, white shirt and holey
socks, wearing a Jar Jar Binks mask from Star Wars: Episode I, 1999. He
sits on a tin and starts a rap-like monologue with:

‘I'm knackered, I'm knackered
I'm fucking back-packered
smack-thwackered at the end of the shelf of the rack
of the aisle at the store where you don't go back
but all the while I could see, I could see
the crack at the back of the blister pack.’

On the whole, *Payne* and Relph reject the authoritative voice-overs
apparent in many documentary films in favour of texts that take the form
of email dialogues between them. These narratives are not conventional,
and the narrators are always male.





at 9:15 AM