Jennet Thomas & Paul Tarragó: We Make Our Own Television

Artvehicle 4/Review

10th November 2006 — 17th December 2006

Vyner Street in Hackney is the must-have address for any gritty, urban gallery, the antithesis of Cork Street's old guard (though just the area to bankroll a project for one's slumming offspring). Apparently this borough is the worst place to live in Britain; it just keeps getting cooler and cooler. At the entrance to the street is Alma Enterprises, a non-commercial; artist run space that is single handedly doing is best to slow the gentrification of the area. From it's prime site on the corner that wonky 'A' in the sign must be knocking a grand of every property in the street.

In this two-person show, titled 'We Make Our Own Television' the work of Jennet Thomas and Paul Tarragó is shown. The gallery is a darkened space, entered through a light trap. Inside tired bunting and a cheesy alpine holiday poster are visible in the gloom. The light comes from two video projections and a scruffy, yellow plaster man that is high up on in the corner of the space. Made with a 'penny-for-the-guy' aesthetic, he clutches two cheap trophies and a light bulb in his lap. These objects link to Thomas's 13.5 minute video 'Because of War'.

In this projection a yellowed-up presenter stands in front of a series of still images and calmly describes a series of absurdities: how water is now more often female and some popular foods cannot be trusted. This, he explains, is all because of the war and he goes on to show, in a series of short films, how the world is changing and how people are adapting. Like an open-university lecturer earnestly reciting 'Jabberwocky' we don't really understand are lulled by the mantra. Hopefully we can adapt too because if we can't apparently it will be 'Like the beginning of Hell'.

'The Badger Series' are four episodes of a children's-programmesque series. Clocked in nostalgia and with the faux innocence of glove puppets, these short videos tackle head-on some of the weightiest issues they can find, Exploitation, suicide, depression and death, all subtitled in Times New Roman, that most child-friendly of fonts.

Mr Paul is the guiding narrator who shares his garish house with the wilful and inquisitive Badger. In episode one we learn about Badger's time in the orphanage and how Froggy set himself on fire in protest. Mr Paul does his best to explain self-sacrifice but has to contact Uncle Duncan when the questions get really tricky. Soo, from the Sooty Show, totally contravenes her contract with the BBC and presents her stop-frame animation of flies singing about death... and so it goes on.

Episode two introduces a pervy squirrel with a camcorder and Soo, back to collect her tape, discusses exploitation and voyeurism with the other puppets. We learn a little of Soo's bohemian youth and the strange looking exploitee from badger's photos joins the cast. Other episodes see Mr. Paul become depressed at the cancellation of the show and hit the booze. Fortunately a self-indulgent arty film shakes of the 'black dog', as we learn Churchill called depression, and by the end of the episode he's clean-shaven and sober again. Hooray.

Each beautifully produced and scripted episode is between 6 and 17 minutes and are worth watching order. One of the superlative half hours of video art watching this reviewer has done all year.


Alma Enterprises
1 Vyner Street
London E2 9DG

Friday-Sunday, 12-6pm

Jennet Thomas & Paul Tarragó: We Make Our Own Television —  Paul Tarrago, Land of Wood Copyright the Artist

Paul Tarrago, Land of Wood
Copyright the Artist