Runa Islam, White Cube, London


Turner Prize hopeful loses the plot

By the end of this month, you will have heard a great deal about Dhaka-born film-maker Runa Islam – she is one of four artists in contention for this year's Turner Prize shindig. Meanwhile, here at White Cube in Shoreditch, east London, is a relatively small-scale taster – just three films in all – of what may be to come.

When it comes to films and film-making, Islam is a bit of a pedagogue. She wants to teach you about the processes of film-making, to lay them bare so that you spend a great deal of your time thinking about how films achieve their effects, in what circumstances we enjoy them, and why – in short, how much conditioning of a very particular kind goes into our film buffery and our feverish cinema-going.

At White Cube she's teamed up with a Slovenian artist called Tobias Putrih. Putrih, a fabricator of cinema interiors, has created the elaborate architectural settings within which two of these films are being shown, and he has made a fairly elaborate one within White Cube's main gallery space. And it is here that we sit and muse over a new film called Cinematography.

The side walls of this fabricated auditorium are made from flimsy, curtain-like lengths of film that bow and bend and undulate as we walk past them – rather as a reel of film might do if we were to fling it across the floor. Once inside the space, we sit on circular seats that look a bit like reels of film, too – so it feels a bit as if we are somehow inside a projector, all tangled up in the process of making. All very self-conscious. There is no sound to any of these films, merely the mechanical whirring of old-style projectors. In this case, the projector is behind us – we see it just before we enter the "cinema", high above our heads, on wooden scaffolding.

Now what are Islam's films about? This is where it gets a bit tricky, and where the story line of this review begins to fade away somewhat. Islam isn't particularly strong on story lines precisely because her films are fundamentally fairly self-conscious explorations of the processes of film-making. After all, that's what we are supposed to be attending to. So, in Cinematography the camera is making a very slow interrogation of the inside of a building, slowly exploring the architectural spaces, creeping up its walls and windows like a very slow spider; occasionally, the spider suddenly speeds up, and in order to make us doubly aware of this fact, that speeding-up process is accompanied by a funny zipping noise.

An exhibition is being unpacked, and prepared for showing within this space – we see various red crates standing around; the camera homes in on some detail of an abstract painting. The whole exercise is a deliberately segmented gathering and presentation of visual information – we shift from the shapes of the windows to a snatch of parkland that we can see beyond those windows, and then back to the walls of the building. The camera keeps asking us, how does it all cohere? It is a very slow and rather unexciting visual caress.

Upstairs, Putrih has knocked up another architectural mise-en-scène – this one is more a snatch of a cinema than a cinema entire. In a film called The Restless Subject, we are shown how a primitive cinematic device called a thaumatrope works – when you spin a card with an image on both sides, the human brain begins to merge those two images if the card is spun quickly enough, and we read not two images but a single one in motion – pure, primitive cinema, in short. This is fairly – but only fairly – interesting stuff, and once again it delves into the way in which cinema, from the very beginning, has worked its magic upon its audiences.

But, oh dear, we ache for something a bit more humanly engaging than this business of having to sit at a school desk and listen to lessons through barely stifled yawns.

To 4 October (020-7930 5373)

Arts and Entertainment
By Seuss! ‘What Pet Shall I Get?’ hits the bookshops this week
Arts and Entertainment
The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after Enola Gray and her crew dropped the bomb
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Elliott outside his stationery store that houses a Post Office
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

    Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

    Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

    British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'