Faster, Higher (2008) is a multi-screen installation, commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and BFI to coincide with the Beijing Olympics, which interweaves archive material with original footage shot near the London 2012 Olympic site. Originally staged at BFI Southbank, London, it featured in Hit the Ground at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle as part of the 2009 Great North Run Cultural Programme, accompanied by the launch of an eponymous publication. and was re-staged at the Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics.
Continuing interests in notions of nostalgia, aspiration, and the archival, this five-screen work includes montages of Olympic archive material and rarely-seen Chinese documentary footage spanning the last century. In light of China’s voluntary self-exclusion from the Olympics between 1948 and 1980, and the avowed apolitical idealism of the latter as a global brand, Faster, Higher seeks to suggest commonalities in visual and cultural rhetoric, and resonances between notions of nation and sport, patriotism and physical endeavour, opening with the rituals and symbols of national ceremony and international unity: flags jostling along a succession of parades, processions punctuated by the release of doves and balloons. Colour bars and countdowns signal a different ‘universal’ language, implicating the entwined histories of the Olympics and the moving image, as well as archival points of entry. The Olympic rings are echoed through clocks, archers’ targets, lassoes, and gymnasts’ hoops, while the ascent of pole-vaulters, mountaineers, balloons and lanterns invoke the movement’s motto: citius, altius, fortius. The work explores questions of spectacle and its construction, collective identity and solitary endeavour, featuring new footage shot on location in London. Young practitioners filmed at the East London Wushu Academy allude both to individual ambition and Beijing’s campaign to assign martial arts the status of Olympic sport, while the 2012 site is rendered paradoxically visible and invisible via its blue perimeter: a literal and metaphorical screen, barrier and defence, against which dreams may be projected, protests erased, and the labour behind the spectacle concealed.
Citius, Altius (2012) is a new single channel split-screen version of Faster, Higher commissioned for Blue Crystal Ball: Samsung Olympic Games Media Art Collection. The collection of single-channel videos by nine contemporary artists from around the globe premiered at De La Warr Pavilion and featured as part of Abandon Normal Devices (AND) Festival of new cinema, digital culture and art. The nine artists were Kota Ezawa, Kyungwoo Chun, Cao Fei, susan pui san lok, Kimsooja, Torsten Lauschmann, Emily Wardill, Yeundoo Jung, Hiraki Sawa and Kwungwoo Chun.
Faster, Higher, The Gallery at Winchester Discovery Centre, Hampshire, 26 May – 15 July 2012
Local Shorts BBC Big Screen Waltham Forest, London, 2009
Hit the Ground, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, Great North Run Cultural Programme, 16 September – 15 November 2009
Faster, Higher, BFI Southbank, London, 29 May – 30 August 2008
susan pui san lok, ‘Faster, Higher’, 10pp photo-essay in Hilary Powell and Isaac Marrero-Guillamón eds. The Art of Dissent: Adventures in London’s Olympic State
London: Marshgate Press, 2012), 304pp full colour, ISBN 978-0-9572943-0-1. Designed by See Studio. Printed by Calverts
The BFI Gallery Book, ed. Elisabetta Fabrizi, one of eighteen exhibitions presented at the Southbank venue between 2007 and 2010. (London: BFI, 2011:75-84) 296pp, full colour, ISBN 978-1-870282-82-6
Nina Ernst & susan pui san lok eds, Faster, Higher (London: Film and Video Umbrella, 2009), 116pp, 243mm x 169mm, full colour, hardback box, ISBN 978-1-904270-29-4. Designed by marcandanna. Printed by Calverts. Above images © marcandanna 2009
Faster, Higher (2008) and Citius, Altius (2012) includes material which is © Olympic Television Archive Bureau (OTAB), © Leo Dickensen, © Jim Shum, and © ITN source. Special thanks to London Wushu Academy UK and London Chinatown Chinese Association