Mark Neville

— The Jump Films


The Jump Films explore the relationship between performance art and the documentation that survives the physical event. Each film documents a dramatic jump, or fall, captured at thousands of frames per second and shot with a high-speed camera that is normally used in scientific research or car-crash testing. The three films are each shot in contradictory styles and at different speeds. One film seems to document an abortive suicide attempt, another a stunt from a Hollywood movie, and the third as an absurd Olympic event. Originally made on 16mm film, this new HD presentation re-stages the work in a new medium.

In contrast to the grainy documentation associated with 70s performance art, Neville’s works emphasise his role as ‘photographer’ masquerading as ‘performance artist’, revealed through his careful attention to visual detail, framing and location. For example his choice of setting reveals a keen photographic eye that references, amongst others, Flemish landscape painting, Pre-Raphaelite imagery and the heroes of the silent cinema. The choice of camera, each operating at different speeds and angles, is deliberately incongruous and aims to draw our attention to both the similarities and the differences between the films. It could thus be said that Neville’s work monumentalises not the human performance or physical act but the photographic event itself.

In previous incarnations the work has been viewed individually at Tate Britain’s A Century of Artist’s Film Britain and RunningTime: Artist Film in Scotland since 1960 at the Royal Galleries of Scotland. When previously installed at Street Level Gallery, the installation focused on the sculptural possibilities inherent with 16mm film projectors emphasising the sound of the projectors and their physical presence within smaller gallery spaces. However this new installation extends Neville’s interest in controlling how his work is disseminated to the public by emphasising its new existence as a series of High Definition videos.

The presence of the work in this format ironically draws greater focus to its filmic qualities allowing viewers to scrutinise in greater detail its surface texture and photographic playfulness. However, this controlled and calculated restaging of The Jump Films, like other works of Neville’s photographic practice, for example The Port Glasgow Book Project, which drew attention to the photographer’s role by introducing foreign elements to otherwise ‘truthful’ documentary, aims to bring us an overload of information which forces us to question how we perceive archival film and photography.

The Jump Films was commissioned by CIRCA Projects and presented as part of AV Festival 10: Energy. In 2010, the HD commissions of The Jump Films toured to Kunsthaus Essen, as part of RUHR.2012, a platform for exhibitions, discussions and conferences on photography.