– Spring 2015

Will You Be My Version?: James Richards

Ed Halter

James Richards, Not Blacking Out, Just Turning the Lights Off, 2011. Installation view, Chisenhale Gallery. Photograph: Andy Keate. All images courtesy the artist; Cabinet, London; and Rodeo, London and Istanbul

A man sits in a comfortable-looking chair, his eyes closed, his shaved head tilted back. He’s youngish, and white, and wears a black T-shirt emblazoned with a sporty red logo. From off-screen, an older male voice instructs him to ‘now focus on three sounds’, telling him to imagine each one by ‘not really describing it, but just knowing what it is’. The unseen speaker leads the young man through a guided meditation, and perhaps into a hypnotic trance, judging from his voice’s firm but soothing tone; we may assume that the lad will soon be drifting off. But before we can see this happen, a synthesised hum begins to drone in the background, continuing after a cut to a new image: a colour negative of handheld video shot at a lake or river, with some men playing in the water, and the sounds of waves licking against the shore.

This sequence transpires near the beginning of James Richards’s two-channel video Not Blacking Out, Just Turning the Lights Off (2011). What happens in the remainder of the quarter-hour-long piece could be interpreted as the young man’s dream, if one wished to find a narrative rationale in

  1. James Richards in conversation with Chris McCormack at ‘An Evening with James Richards’, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 6 October 2014.

  2. Email from the artist, 10 November 2014.

  3. This use of an extended nautical metaphor has perhaps been influenced by Richards’s Raking Light (2014), which includes recurring images of flowing water, rushing waterfalls and raincoat-clad boaters.

  4. ‘Cut to Swipe’, curated by Stuart Comer, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 11 October 2014—22 March 2015.

  5. Richards uses this phrase to describe Rosebud in a video interview for frieze on the occasion of its inclusion in the 55th Venice Biennale, 2013, available at https://vimeo.com/73609591 (last accessed on 3 November 2014).

  6. Judy Grahn, ‘Slowly: a plainsong from an older woman to a younger woman’, love belongs to those who do the feeling: New & Selected Poems (1966—2006), Pasadena, CA: Red Hen Press, 2008. Also available on the Poetry Foundation’s website, at http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/237426 (last accessed on 7 November 2014).