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I look up…I look down 2001

Pernille Spence (born 1970, Dundee, Scotland, UK)

I look up…I look down
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Copyright: Copyright The Artist; Images courtesy of Pernille Spence

This 2.30 minute video loop consists of four carefully selected shots of a woman falling/ flying through the sky. The filming took place in Northern Spain outside of an aircraft during the process of freefall. The serenity of the professional skydiver is at odds with her actual circumstances, a human body plummeting to earth at 120mph. The title of the piece is taken from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Here Jimmy Stewart is seen standing on a stool lowering and raising his terrified eyes from ceiling to floor whilst repeating the mantra ‘I look up, I look down’. His fear of heights is disproportionate to the competency with which he can bring to the simple task of standing on a stool. For him the reality of his task is a nightmare; three miles up, the mundanity of the skydivers rote-learned skills are such that you feel that she can dreamily float upwards into outer space. The piece explores notions of flying, falling and the human desire to escape earth’s gravitational pull. Our desire for absolute freedom – both physically and mentally. Spence isolates moments where the performer appears to be flying, either with instinctive control or falling out of control, either terrified or ecstatic. Psychologically this work also deals with extremities of emotion. Through this action one can experience the deepest of fears but also a strong sense of euphoria. Reaching extremes - emotional extremes - strongly underlie the physical nature of the work. The artist states: 'I look up I look down' is a result of my ongoing research into the analysis of (human) movement and psychological/physical (re-)action to specific situations and environments, both naturally existent and deliberately staged.

Acquisition Details

Acquired from the artist, 2005
Purchased with funds from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland which was originated and operated 2003-2006 by the Contemporary Art Society and supported by the National Lottery through the Scottish Arts Council.
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I look up…I look down