The Guardian
Saturday 17 October 1998
Arts News
Why did you get that hat?
Review Jonathan Romney
Pandemonium Festival
London Electronic Arts

In a scrawled note in the Pandemonium programme, Tracey Emin explains the origins of her new video work. It all goes back to her childhood in Margate, when she spent hot summers mucking out ponies. It left her terrified of horses. "That's all going to change," she decided. "Yep, I'll be on top - shouting 'Yee-hah'."

So, on a chilled October night, at the opening of Pandemonium art and video festival, there was Hoxton's bohemia huddled on a pavement outside the LEA Gallery to see how Emin had handled her well-publicised riding lessons. A one-off performance was promised, and Cowgirl Trace delivered, albeit for all of 30 seconds. The screens rose slowly in the upstairs windows, and there she was in silhouette, strutting and striking gun totin' Cat Ballou poses. Then we got Sundown proper.

Projected over four windows, first came a wide screen vista of Margate Sands, as Emin rode her lonesome steed from screen to screen. Then came four golden travel brochure sunsets. Then four identical shots of Emin riding towards the camera in a black bra and an ornery sneer, the pictures bobbing gently out of sync in a nice queasy rocking motion.

Presumanly Emin's obsessive soap-opera chronicling of her life gives the pictures some meaningful context. Either she was riding out of town one last time into the sunset, or returning, a prodigal High Plains Drifter, to settle some bloody scores with the local lads. But the images weren't arresting enough to stop your mind drifting to impertinent questions.

Wouldn't it have been interesting if she'd actually shot the video in Death Valley and just made it look like Margate? And could it be that, at the same moment, down in Margate, the local crowd was gathering to watch a video of sunset in Hoxton? No one shouted "Yee-hah!", although one sarcastic punter yelled "Genius!" But the last word went to the DJ at the party afterwards, who played Is That All There Is?

The installation that really got people talking was Dryden Goodwin's remarkable Within. Four screens hang in mid-air in a dark room, in a strange little roof formation. On them, Goodwin has captured the various blank, affronted and quizzing looks of people he passed while travelling on various modes of transport - buses, boats, trains, escalators.

Digitally manipulating the images to a blurry crawl, slowly zooming in and out as the camera sweeps by, he produces remarkable swaying, see-sawing effects, so that the only constants is the looks of his subjects gliding past. It gives a provocatively literal treatment to the notion of "fugitive looks", and keeps you guessing whether we're watching them or they're watching us. If the effect - set to Goodwin's own unsettling multi-layered soundtrack - sometimes suggests moments from the more poetic strain of MTV videos, Within is nevertheless a haunting achievement.