speaking, hesitating






Lucy Clout 22 minutes [film still]




A static shot across a lawn. A suburban house. Shaded by trees, the house sits stocky, clapboarded and vanilla coloured. A car is parked to its left. Lucy Clout coughs from behind the camera, and begins talking. 
The cough is a device to bring us back to the person behind the camera, speaking, hesitating.

This is the house in Evansville, Indiana, used as a location for American sitcom Roseanne. Clout's flat voice-over describes its use, Roseanne's audience ratings, and the roles of various producers and actors, as if reciting from a fan base article (though in fact it is she who has written the text). Suddenly she breaks into direct voice, presumably addressing the house as if it is a character: 'You are threatening, you are uninteresting, you are casual', then the flat reeling of information continues. 
Repetition figures frequently in the text, minor sentences lacking verbs reminiscent of poetry, and therefore out of place: 'A blinding flash of Matt Williams' anxiety that the house is not external enough.
At one point, the voice-over stops when a young woman exits the house with a dog on a lead and pulls it around the lawn. She re-enters the house and shuts the door. Clout coughs, and continues her monologue. 'You are a local, a regular, very discreet... [is she now addressing the house's occupant?] The house is symmetrical, but not too symmetrical... A blinding flash of Matt Williams' anxiety that the house is not external enough'. A car drives past as a butterfly flickers towards the camera. Nothing happens. This is the type of architecture we know from sitcoms and movies; here it is again, before us on the auditorium screen, running for the sitcom standard length of 22 minutes – yet nothing happens. The house is a screen itself, onto which we project our memories of film, and onto which Clout projects her speech. The combination of impersonal declaratives and slips into direct voice reflect Clout's interest in social conventions of intimacy, conversation and language. 

Describing the making of 22 minutes, Clout says she stood behind the camera, pretending to read a book, and looked away when the woman with the dog looked; she seems to enjoy awkwardness. In an untitled film made on her web cam, she sits cross legged in a dressing gown. The carpet is beige, and a wall socket and Internet cables are visible behind her. 'Hello,' she greets the camera, and goes on to address the recipient of what we discover is an email video greeting. 'I'm going to show you some tricks,' she says. This is a visualisation of the mundane: on the floor, not-dressed yet, Clout tries to entertain someone elsewhere with banal tricks and chatting. The framing severs anything above her neck from the shot, causing us to feel stuck, lowdown inside the computer's web cam, like an interloper intercepting a skype call. The idea of a third person who is not necessarily supposed to be there intrigues Clout, suggesting voyeurism and an element of comedy. As viewers, we often feel like this third person encountering awkward exchanges. During a recent screening at the Whitechapel Gallery, Clout offered the audience a woolly tassel she had made, and held up a pair of plastic trousers printed with a pattern of snails. 'Treat it right,' she said, giving the tassel to an audience member at the back. It is unclear what the relationship between the tassel, the trousers and the films is, but it is exactly this ambiguity and clunkiness that makes Clout's work speak, unhesitatingly, about social conventions.