The multi-disciplined British artist Sam Taylor-Wood is known for a diverse output of photographic images that incorporate her still and video works with sound. Whether it be the panoramic tableaux of her series Five Revolutionary Seconds or in other projects, her use of a camera is as an instrument aimed at hybrid results. Self-consciously cinematic but not linear, her still work incorporates multiple viewpoints and subjects with the overwhelming effect of disjointed but spontaneous and simultaneous actions. A highly regarded artist, she is part of the new wave of young British artists that rose to prominence in the 1990s. She was on the short-list for the prestigious Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery in 1998 and was the recipient of the Illy Cafi Prize for Most Promising Young Artist at the 1997 Venice Biennale. Recognized in the United States as well, Five Revolutionary Seconds XI, the image offered here, was exhibited in "New Photography 14" at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1998-99.
Five Revolutionary Seconds is a series of panoramic interiors, which, by the very nature of the format, does not encourage a comfortable resting-place for the viewer's eye. There is no center of attention, no one event dominates the scene. Peopled by friends and colleagues, the subjects easily seem unaware of what occurs literally within arm's reach of each other. Actions are unrelated and emotions are intense, whether it be joy, anger, boredom or sexual. In her video work she has been related to Bruce Nauman (cf., Fondazione Prada, Sam-Taylor-Wood, 1998) but in the sense of picturing multiple points of view and psychological complexity within the same frame, Garry Winogrand also comes to mind. Some however would dispute that there is any relation between Taylor-Wood and works done before. In the essay, Sam Taylor-Wood: The Eyes and Ears of History, Bruce W. Ferguson suggests that "[To] retain media distinctions, such as 'the nature of photography', is not only a modernist conceit (and thus serves institutions and not artist audiences), but more importantly, it is simply wrong-headed today when artists, of which Sam Taylor-Wood can be seen to be an exemplary example, blur mediums and blur genres and blur references to create multiple points of reference. The work would be ill served by confining it within narrow monologic histories such as photo or video" (ibid, p. 11). There is indeed both pop culture and high art references at play simultaneously in Taylor-Wood's work and in the 'reading' of the work lies the texture of her meaning. She mixes the different time experiences and frames of reference flawlessly, such as in Five Revolutionary Seconds XI where the photograph - the executed art object - only suggests time passing but the experience of hearing the audio tape that accompanies it actually does take place over time. Deceit and the audience's orientation to the art are constantly in play. In her 1995 video Brontosaurus shown at the Tate Modern and elsewhere, a naked man dances - or moves creatively, ecstatically at times - to the mournful soundtrack of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," when in fact, the subject (not a trained dancer) had been listening to club music at home. All the while a purple stuffed toy dinosaur stays within frame. Other moving image works employ the music of the Beastie Boys or just ambient sound, which abstractly link her to the sound experiments of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno in the 1970s.