Stephen Sutcliffe’s Runaway, Success is a repository of cultural history including film, television, literature, philosophy, Kenneth Williams, Alan Bennett, Saul Steinberg and Black Lace’s euphoric Gang Bang Song. Within his work, selections from an extensive archive of video and audio recordings are fused together to create disjointed, complex vignettes about the nature of cultural representation, and the figures who embody it.
The first gallery is filled with four video monitors which each show two of Sutcliffe’s ‘video-collages.’ The end of one film triggers the beginning of the next, creating a dense and carefully orchestrated viewing experience. The short videos pull together clips from the past fifty years: a young Ian McKellen lectures to a thespian audience at an RSC workshop; Christopher Logue reads from his poem O Come All Ye Faithful. It’s difficult to understand which video is which and what will come next, but this dizzying panorama is perfect for Sutcliffe’s pastiche of broadcast material. So much so that a video-collage dedicated to philosopher Gilles Deleuze is part of a cycle which ultimately degenerates into ‘We’re having a gang bang, we’re having a ball.’
Sutcliffe continually employs the grammar of media representation, manipulating it to focus on the fissures of self-doubt that undermine the confidence of iconic individuals. Writer-in-Residence takes the form of a TV-style interview, in which the tense relationship between interviewer and interviewee becomes a metaphor for the dichotomy of media power and the relationship between established and emergent voices.
Sutcliffe’s stockpile of cultural references is diverse and often obscure, but his characteristic method of video-collaging creates a delightfully awkward experience, with a refreshing wit that avoids any overwrought cynicism.