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Video Documentation 2, Briony Anderson, 2005

Briony Anderson’s almost-untitled ‘Video Documentation 2’ is a non-stop projected loop of the artist stepping through an improvised Scottish country dance, installed in Ivy Buchanan’s, a recently vacated dressmakers shop in Banff. It is a simple piece, and a quiet one; but it is, simply and quietly, an angry piece too. Ivy Buchanan’s sits on a side street, and, now that the shop has closed, seems largely ignored. Anderson’s choice of location points to what is perhaps her chief concern, an exploration of the place of women in Scottish culture.

The appropriation of the chocolate-box cheeriness of the country dance is an obvious one, but Anderson gives it weight. She dances in ‘traditional’ dress, oddly childlike. Her relentlessly repetitive movements point to the fact that the dance is at once a fetish and a denial of sexuality, a stiff-armed straitjacket that seeks to force the dancer into a codified template of constraint, an exemplar or everywoman who, perversely, is performing for an audience, an individual aiming to please. (And perhaps pleasing is key here, above any notions of restriction—in a past piece, Anderson danced for her mother.)

If the siting of this video loop in a closed dressmakers, its shelves labelled with anachronisms—foundation garments, garter belts—points to the obsolescence of the ultra-feminine, the placement of companion work ‘6:1’ hints that Anderson is concerned less with universals, more with the particulars of place. ‘6:1’ is named for the gradient of ‘Straight Path’, the steep Banff street in which Anderson’s twin triptychs of land and seascapes sit, again in vacant premises, this time stripped down and anonymous. The six paintings are set far back in their shop-vitrines, but this is not an apologetic placement behind windows—the grey, dreich, washed-out canvases literally become mirrors, reflecting passing viewers just as their wan monochrome surfaces represent the flat grey skies and greyer granite walls of Banff.

This mirroring prompts a re-examination of ‘Video Documentation 2’. The endless dance is projected in such a way as to reflect off the glass frontage of Ivy Buchanan’s, repeated in the angled display windows, onto the walls inside and, at night, outside the shop. At first, this effect appears a happy accident, enhancing the repetition of the dance, but with ‘6:1’ relying on a deliberate mirroring, the nature of the performance shifts—it is not look at me, it is look at you. This could be seen as an accusatory sideswipe at the place Anderson grew up, and, if she had mounted her work elsewhere, it would indeed be hard to avoid seeing these two installations as a petulant snub, an impotent attack on parochial hometown ways. Here, Anderson appears to be holding up a mirror not as a rebuke, but as a quiet call to viewers to examine their surroundings, their attitudes; these works ask what it is to be here, in Banff.

Jack Mottram is an arts writer