"Terry Flaxton has been an impassioned, indefatigable presence in British Independent
Video for almost two decades. During this time he has assembled an impressive body
of work encompassing powerful, polemical documentary (produced as a member of
ground-breaking outfits Vida and Triplevision) and highly personal, poetic video art.
What unites these separate strands of Flaxton's video making is a strongly held belief
in the medium's ability to change our image of the world - or at least that resrtricted
view of it obtained through the television screen. In Flaxton's eyes, a faith in video's
transforming potential burns undiminished. More to the point, in Flaxton's hands, much
of the medium's radical promise goes some way towards being fulfilled.
A gifted lighting cameraman, whose skills are extensively sought both inside and
outside the industry, Flaxton brings a consumate polish to everything he shoots,
exemplified equally by the verite Prisoners (1984) and the visionary The World Within
Us (1988). A similar finely-honed sensibility distinguishes later pieces, like The Colour
Myths (1990 - 1995), which draws heavily from an up-to-minute-palette of digital effects.
Attempting the kind of rhapsodic fusion of image and language that few of his
contemporaries could contemplate, let alone execute, Flaxton's later works have tended
to divide opinion; but there is no doubting their vigour, integrity and sheer visual
-- Steven Bode, A Directory of British Video Artists, Editor david Curtiss, Arts Council of
England, John Libby Media/University of Luton Press
The Dinner Party
Flaxton's Dinner Party is a video installation with a difference. On entering the room the audience is confronted with a real
table, laid with plates and cutlery. Suddenly, virtual hands reach out and begin to eat and conversations start. The audience
can sit and participate alongside these virtual presences and construct whatever group interaction they choose.
This release of fantasy is very different from that of earlier works exploiting the same situation. I am thinking of Judy
Chicago's formal feminist feast 'The Dinner Party' (1979), which highlighted women's history with a mixed media depiction of
famous women, and Diller and Scofidio's 'Indigestion' (1996), an interactive video installation where two characters met
across a dinner table and only their animated hands appear on screen, their witty dialogue gradually revealing a murder
By creating a more open situation, where they can participate on equal terms, Flaxton invites the audience into a deeper
imaginative engagement with the installation, and people feel they have the permission and playful freedom to comment on
and react to the oblivious guests. As such it has far more in common with constructed narratised play encouraged by a media
artist like Paul Sermon in installations such as 'Telematic Dreaming'. Flaxton has created a minor masterpiece in the clarity of
his vision and the exploitation of the disconnect between two competing realities occupying the same space.
In a world where artist's video installations can all too often be either obscurely portenteous or mundanely repetitive, it is
refreshing to encounter a slice of the everyday and an invitation to join in or observe, without pressure or humiliation. When
shown previously in the UK, whole families have enjoyed the experience and left feeling enriched and enlivened.
-- Professor Martin Rieser, Digital Imaging, Bath Spa University, July 2005