Growing Pains and High Value Targets (2009)
Growing Pains is a two-channel video exploration of simultaneous micro and macro perspectives combining the opposite extremes of intimate recordings of a season of gardening, with contemporary military tracking footage from Iraq. From the discovery of tender sprouts emerging from the snow, to the taming of wild growth and the handling of pests, weather and encroaching weeds, cultivating a garden is portrayed as an act of optimism and hope, an attempt to balance chaos and order on a small, domestic scale. Set against this private endeavor, the aerial and night vision footage of “engagement” with military targets infiltrates our consciousness with a pervasive sense of dread and threat of large scale public destruction. An additional layer of dialogue throughout suggests a negotiation between private and public worlds, as we hear a family navigating the children’s increased independence, their ventures away from the safety of home and their increasing exploration of the world at large on their own. The lushly coloured gardening footage is immersive and sensual. In comparison, the monochromatic wide-angle military footage marked with viewfinder target crosshairs feels like a symbolic assault. Seen through a distancing veil of technology and navigational data, the footage epitomizes the relationships of knowledge and power implicit in the act of photography and points to the intertwining of photography and war.
This multiplicity of perspectives is presented in two separate but side-by-side video channels, accentuating the tensions within the dualities of creation/destruction, hope/fear, public/private, and microcosm/macrocosm. Yet, despite these contrasts, a shared concern for control and surveillance plays out across all the layers of the work, from the military to the garden to the family. Further relationships between the two channels are conveyed by transposing conventions of the military footage onto the garden imagery. Targets, navigational data, night vision, and censor markings are overlaid onto the garden footage as distancing mechanisms, implying the act of surveillance. Corresponding camera movements and angles often occur in both channels – a searching aerial zoom or pan in a military clip is matched with an equivalent camera movement in the garden. Exploring ideas of security and vulnerability, Growing Pains suggests the myriad ways in which we as individuals might feel under siege in today’s world.
Looping installation version: two channels projected onto two separate but side-by-side screens, 22 minute 12 second video. Screening version: the two video channels placed side-by-side into a single widescreen channel with title and credits, 22 minute 53 second video.
Video and audio by Cheryl Pagurek. Military footage courtesy of DVIDS Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System. Additional voices: Cheryl Pagurek, Steve van Mossel, David Pagurek van Mossel, Sari Pagurek van Mossel. Additional sound files courtesy of Freesound (http://freesound.iua.upf.edu). Audio mix by Chris Ikonomopoulos
The High Value Targets photographic series further explores the tensions and concerns of the Growing Pains video. Employing a diptych format that abuts a grainy military video still with a high resolution photograph from the garden, the prints locate a private world of beauty within a larger world of conflict. Similar strategies used in the video to both contrast and connect the opposing sources of imagery are again engaged in the prints, including the use of both low and high camera angles, as well as the overlaying of military navigational data, viewfinder target markings, and black censor bars onto the garden, indicating surveillance. Each diptych is subtitled with a short statement or command from the military personnel in the video.