John Wood (born in 1969 in Hong Kong) and Paul Harrison (born in 1966 in Wolverhampton, England) both studied at the Bath College of Higher Education. They have been working together since 1993. Wood and Harrison have exhibited their work extensively internationally. Recent exhibitions include: The Contemporary Art Gallery,
Vancouver, 2016; Museo de Antioquia, Medellin, 2014; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 2011; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2009; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, 2007; Tate Britain, London, 2004; The British Art Show 5, UK tour, 2000. Wood & Harrison Live and work in Bristol.
Wood and Harrison create video works of minimalist performances, touching on themes of tragedy, comedy and irony. They are experiments in the physical limitations, scale and movement of the human body in relation to the surrounding environment, which has usually been constructed by the artists.
In 66.86, we see a small white room crossed by a grid-like sequence of white ropes, held in place by pulleys attached to the walls and floors. After several seconds, the ropes begin to jangle and move silently on the pulleys. After several more seconds, a rhythmic shunting sound begins, and black sections begin to appear on the ropes. The small black sections continue to appear and increase, passing through the space like determined black snakes. Occasionally the viewer might have the impression of the formation of some kind of outline - a sense of purpose to the appearance of the lines. The shunting speeds up and the ropes start to move more furiously, before the black sections of the rope settle in the middle of the space to create the perfect outline of a simple chair.
As with many of Wood & Harrison’s videos much of the action takes place off-camera. The unmoving gaze of their cameras fixed on a white, box-like interior. This fixing makes it impossible not to imagine what is happening off-screen. Are the artists changing the colour of sections of string, to create the neat illusion that we see? The simplicity of the action that we see belies a complexity that happens always elsewhere. The soundtrack, the shunting sound of the moving string, creates an industrial impression. However the soundtrack is also peppered with short electronic noises, which sound like recorded voices played backwards. This turns the reading of the video on its head somewhat, as we start to imagine that the film has been made backwards. That what began with a chair somehow disintegrated.
66.86 is the first of Wood & Harrison’s works from this period not to feature a figure in the frame. However it shares with many of their other works an interest in drawing, and creates almost a new machine for 3-D drawing, operated by ropes and pulleys. The word ‘draw’ does, of course, also mean, ‘to pull towards’ as well as the meaning that we might associate with a pencil, and here the artist manage to combine the two – creating lines and shapes by pulling rope towards them.