Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro - About the exhibition and artist PDF Print E-mail

Life Span

195,774 VHS videocassettes are arranged to form a giant block within the chapel of a former convent. The amount is significant: the combined running time of this VHS stack is enough to literally record the average person’s life span of 66.1 years.

VHS cassettes are either taking up space in the houses of hoarders or rapidly crowding landfill. Life Span is closely related to our other projects of recent years, such as the reconfiguration of the entire contents of an abandoned artists’ warehouse and the reconstitution of the complete fabric of demolished and disused living spaces, including an old suburban home. In all our work we use found materials to symbolise today’s world: we take consumer detritus and re-order it into imposing, highly detailed sculptural forms, citing the material’s ingrained narrative associations to suggest new meanings in unexpected contexts.

The chapel is a place of contemplation. Whether it be birth, death or significant stages between, people come to the space to reflect on their path through life. The memento mori that we have created in the chapel is an object encasing time - approximately 587,322 hours in fact. Monumental commemorations to a life are usually made from materials such as stone or bronze. Although edifices such as the Egyptian pyramids and the Taj Mahal are lasting testaments to the lives of past nobility, the materials they are constructed from deny rather than divulge our own temporality.

We have chosen to create a monument from a material that is itself redundant, a material that is not just within reach of the aristocrat but within the sphere of the everyday person. In other words, we have chosen to depict the average lifespan with an average material. The birth and death of the VHS cassette tape took place over a period of roughly two decades, which was, coincidentally, the average human life span during the Neolithic era. VHS not only served as a medium of mass entertainment, but with the widespread ownership of video cameras was also an important tool for documenting personal moments in life.

The vast collection of cassettes contains wildly different contents - Hollywood films, corporate presentations, work-out sessions, home movies, porno, kids entertainment and Pilates instruction manuals. Within this monumental collection exist different narratives within a frame tale. On viewing the stack, it is possible to imagine the format of one’s life as portrayed in The Decameron or The Arabian Nights: stories followed by stories, stories within stories intermingling, getting lost and re-found, finally coming to an end. The stored information held within this collection of videos becomes an impenetrable block - a dense mass akin to dark matter. Life Span is the physical representation of what may flash before one’s eyes before death.