Is the anybody there? at HOME

Is the anybody there?
18th February 2023 – 4th June 2023

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Chris Paul Daniels, Is there anybody there? 2022, Film still.
Chris Paul Daniels, Is there anybody there? 2022, Film still.

HOME present Is there anybody there?, a solo show by artist filmmaker Chris Paul Daniels.

His work responds to place, merging communal memory with experimental observation and fictional narration. For this exhibition, Daniels has sourced 70 different films from the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University, editing them together to create a monumental study of cultural traditions, procession and ceremony. Guided by the unseen presence of a disembodied voice, the artist’s fictional script and original musical score composed by Graham Massey (808 State, Massonix), reanimate past archival footage whilst addressing how film can be authored and mediated.

Original footage from across the North West has been shot by enthusiasts in their homes, on the street, by local film societies or professional productions, on media ranging from Super 8 or 16mm film to analogue and digital video. The films feature elaborate costumes of popular and imaginary figures, people performing puppetry, magic tricks, competitive weightlifting, high wire acrobatics, community arts performances, or parades such as Whit walks, pageants and pride marches, from as early as 1901 to the present day.

Edited together to create a continuous flowing choreography, Is there anybody there? explores notions of individual and collective archival memory, how it is created, by whom, (posing questions around who had the means to access the camera) and consequently whose stories, identities or cultures may be missing.

Daniels uses the archival footage as a malleable material to be sculpted, fragmented, collapsing and disrupting the chronology of time, dancing from one era or location to another. The composition of image, narrative and score are developed intuitively and in dialogue, both informing the other as the narrative evolves. The single voice narration meanders from benignly descriptive, speculative, teasing the viewer with visual jokes, to declaratory or conveying allusions to being summoned, and through the conflation with moving image, the film takes on a sentient presence.

In this film, archival footage normally presented as evidence, becomes mere speculation; a metaphor for the uncanny or past lives. Fascinated by the slippages between what is real and what is not, the artist explores how historical events morph between legend, myth or folklore, or how endlessly performed rituals can become estranged out of time. The precarity of the narrative of history is exposed through fictions told by an unreliable narrator and proposes new stories to make sense of our lives for a parallel present or a projected future.

About the artist

Chris Paul Daniels graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2010 and lives and works in Manchester. His moving image work has been screened at film festivals and galleries internationally and is included in collections at University of Salford Art Collection, Grundy Art Gallery and Blackpool Council Collection via the Art Fund. He co-founded Unravel, the longest hand painted film in Britain which led over a hundred public events across the UK including Tate Britain, BFI Southbank, Turner Contemporary and IKON Gallery and a residency at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Recent works include SAFE at HOMEOne Square Mile for Quays Culture & University of Salford Art Collection (with Sam Meech), Northern Lights, a co-commission by ICA & The Grundy Art Gallery, The Book of Lies for the National Museum of Iceland, and Steinrunnin/Petrified commissioned by Curated Place and Einkofi Productions. He is a studio holder at Paradise Works Artist Studios in Salford, and a film programmer for the Cinema Paradiso events as part of HOME’s Artist Film Weekender, and also Braziers International Film Festival. He is a Senior Lecturer in Filmmaking at the School of Digital Arts, at Manchester Metropolitan University.

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