Tuesday, September 20, 2005

REVIEW: Death in Dun Laoghaire (Film Base)

The thrill of recognition plays a big role in Gary Coyle's first, brave plunge into the chilly waters of performance: just about everyone who has come of age in South Dublin in the last twenty years will share some memories with this artist turned storyteller.

Coyle is perhaps best known through his work as a visual artist, which includes his series of images associated with serial killers, and, more recently, his swimmer's eye views of the waters of Dublin Bay.

For Death in Dun Laoghaire, he leverages his photographic work into an odd, heartfelt autobiography, using a slide show and some nice tunes to monologues his way through Dublin in the Seventies to the present day. It is a simple recipe for a pleasant time, even if Coyle's preoccupations – as he quickly owns up – tend to be rather grave.

Taking the audience from his early years in his native borough, via various murders and fatal mishaps, to his present fixation on his own death, Coyle manages to include everything from gang rape to death by automobile, by way of disarmingly sweet elegy to the Stillorgan dual carriageway.

The photographs that accompany the stories are often gorgeously romantic – Dun Laoghaire is often unequivocally beautiful when seen through Coyle’s camera – but still harbour a wash of unease that is underlined by the macabre and witty text.

Given their common fixation on death, Spalding Gray would seem to be one model for what Coyle is attempting, even if the Irish artist does not yet have the presentational polish of his New Yorker model. But then again, Spalding Gray conspicuously lacked Coyle’s luminous gift for urban landscape photography.

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