Installations and multi-media works

Pent-up

Sam Taylor-Johnson

Pent-up

5-screen laser disc projection + sound

1996

HC 9971

Provenance

Jay Jopling, London.
Saatchi Collection, London
Acquired, Contemporary Art auction, Christie's London, 8 February 2001, lot 37.

Exhibited

London, Chisenhale Gallery, Sam Taylor-Wood Pent- Up, 1996-1997. This exhibition travelled to Sunderland, City Library and Arts Centre.
Zurich, Kunsthalle Zurich, Sam Taylor-Wood, 1997.
Santa Fe, SITE Sante Fe, Truces: Echoes of Art in an Age of Endless Conclusions, 1997.
New York, MoMa PS1, Group Exhibition, 1997.
Johannesburg, 2nd Johannesburg Biennale, 1997-1998.
Milan, Fondazione Prada, Sam Taylor-Wood, 1998-1999 (illustrated in the catalogue in colour, pp.232-233, pp. 236-245).
London, South Bank Centre, Hayward Gallery, Sam Taylor-Wood, 2002 (illustrated in colour, unpaginated).

Literature

Sam Taylor-Johnson, quoted in G. Celant, Sam Taylor-Wood, 'Soliloquy' in Sam Taylor-Wood, exh. cat., Fondazione Prada, Milan, 1998, p. 184
Milan, Fondazione Prada, Sam Taylor-Wood, 1998-1999 (illustrated in the catalogue in colour, pp.232-233, pp. 236-245).
N. Spector, Sam Taylor-Wood: Violent Incidents, in Sam Taylor-Wood, Milan, 1999
London, South Bank Centre, Hayward Gallery, Sam Taylor-Wood, 2002 (illustrated in colour, unpaginated
Richard Dorment, What Lies Beneath, Daily Telegraph, 1 May 2002

duration: 10 30
5-screen laser disc projection with sound, shot on 16mm film
Installation dimensions variable.
Number two from an edition of three

The five screen work is viewable on Sam Taylor-Johnson's website (see External Links):

http://samtaylorjohnson.com/moving-image/art/pent-up-1996

Pent Up is one of photographer and film-maker Sam Taylor-Johnson's most acclaimed large-scale works, a complex filmic exploration of English society and individual preocupations.

An installation of five simultaneous projections shot on 16mm film, each presents an individual obsessively engaging with their own interior monologue, and addresses themes of isolation, disconnection, the invasion of the private sphere, and the struggle for narrative order.

Urban, contemporary and English, Pent Up was first exhibited to great critical acclaim at the Chisenhale Gallery, London, in 1996. The work has since been shown in major international museum exhibitions, including the Kunsthalle, Zurich; MoMA PS1, New York; Fondazione Prada, Milan; and in Taylor-Johnsons retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 2002.

On each screen the private universe of a set of diverse characters is revealed: a middle-aged woman walks around a London square, an older man sits alone in the dark, a man wanders through his minimalist home, a young woman gets drunk by herself in a bar, and a second young, dishevelled man restlessly paces a private courtyard. Unravelling a symphony of discordant voices, the viewer observes the exclamations, accusations and ravings of each character.

Taylor-Johnson explains: Everything is in dialogue, and the actors seem to be addressing one another from the beginning, where one says Are you sure?, to which the man at the right seems to respond, agitated and nervous, Quite sure - an interweaving of internal conversations that find fragile but direct connections. The drunk woman at the bar, waiting for a friend, says: So why wont you look at me? and an indirect response follows from the boy in the white bedroom: You cant ask those kinds of things. It is a dialogue between desires and soliloquies (Sam Taylor-Johnson, quoted in G. Celant, Sam Taylor-Wood, Soliloquy in Sam Taylor-Wood, exh. cat., Fondazione Prada, Milan, 1998, p. 184).

Apparently in dialogue with one another it is, in fact, the viewer who has created these conversational connections and patterns of logic within the intermingled speech where, ultimately, there are none.

Inspired by Andy Warhols single-take screen-test films from the early 1960s, the objective viewpoint of the camera in Pent-Up creates a claustrophobic environment that offers no escape from the psychological distress, self-obsession and intense loneliness that the characters are subjected to. Playing with the conventions of the theatrical soliloquy in which an individual transmits private thoughts or reflections aloud to themself and, at the same time, to an audience, in Pent-Up Taylor-Johnsons characters are totally immersed in their own worlds, disengaged from one another and from the viewer. Taylor-Johnson acts upon the paranoia of a viewer conditioned by film and television to demand narrative structure. Rather, Pent-Up presents parallel narratives that offer five very different expressions of the human condition, both intimate and egotistical but also, in this way, concurrent and collective.

'In her complex and multi-layered video installation 'Pent-Up' (1996), Taylor-Wood further invokes a state of psychic distress, in which the division or chasm between reality and the 'real' becomes all consuming and inescapable. The installation consists of five large projected images, which sit side by side with their edges abutting on one long wall. On each 'screen' we encounter the private universe of a seemingly isolated individual: a middle-aged woman walking on the street (Ellen van Schuylenburch), an aging man sitting on a chair in a darkened room (John McVicar), a young, undressed man in his stylish, minimalist flat (Dexter Fletcher), a young woman drinking alone in a bar (Amanda Ooms), and a young, long-haired man pacing in a garden (Oliver Milburn). Throughout the duration of the ten-minute video, each character rants and raves aloud as if revisiting a previous painful conversation or rehearsing an impending showdown with an estranged lover or friend. Aggressive exclamations are coupled with pathetic utterances; belligerent accusations are followed by timid apologies; forthright confessions overlap with evasive disavowals. Filmed in a single unedited take - reminiscent of Warhol's dead-pan screen-tests - each character exists in a humid, claustrophobic environment from which there appears to be no psychic or physical escape. They may be prisoners of their own distorted minds. The overall impression is one of intense, aching loneliness, if not true mental illness.' (N. Spector, Sam Taylor-Wood: Violent Incidents, in Sam Taylor-Wood, Milan, 1999)

Reviewing Taylor-Wood's retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in London, Richard Dorment, art critic of the Daily Telegraph, declared:

'In the five-screen projection Pent-Up - the strongest work in the show - Taylor-Wood uses the theatrical convention of the soliloquy to explore obsessional behaviour and thinking. Shown against a long wall at the Hayward, each screen is filled with a single figure . All talk unceasingly about their disappointment and anger with one of the others. All our imprisoned in their own world, too preoccupied with their thoughts to be able to communicate with anyone else. Pent-Up could easily be read as a portrait of a dysfunctional middle-class family in which each member has given up a life of their own to fixate on one or more of the others. Structuring her work like a fugue, Taylor-Wood raisers and lowers the sound to shift our attention from one screen to the next, as a word spoken by one character is picked up by another, creating a dense skein of possible connections between the five monologues.' (Richard Dorment, What Lies Beneath, Daily Telegraph, 1 May 2002).



British Photography / The Hyman Collection

Sam Taylor-Johnson

Pent-up

5-screen laser disc projection + sound

1996

HC 9971

All images © the artist or copyright holder | Website © The Hyman Collection 2021