Contemporary gallery film and video installation unsettles critics. Freed from the constraints of old technology it has acquired a ‘seductive immateriality’. Instead of the ‘activated spectatorship’ promoted by other types of installation it encourages passive viewing and ‘mimetic engulfment’. The concerns that it provokes cluster around two related issues: the question of medium and that of location. In comparison with the work of the 1960s and 1970s, contemporary gallery film has been seen as lacking a critical project in relation to medium and space. Taking its starting point from a contextual examination of the spatial dynamics of the earlier wave of gallery film, this essay will argue, through detailed analysis of three recent works, that there has been a ‘deictic turn’ towards more complex and mutable conceptions of space and location in gallery film, and that this development is less a symptom of these cultural and technological developments than a necessary response to them.

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