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Virginia Phongsathorn: Chicken Soup (The Commune), 2007

Drive to form, to play, to another body, to a certain end.

I wanted to write about Ginny’s work, so watched Chicken Soup (The Commune) a few times. On Wednesday we had spent a few hours in her studio, talking about her paintings. So to talk of her film today, is to refer to those hours, before those paintings.

As if looking from the navel-eye-view at a kitchen crowded with objects, the film watches the preparation of chicken soup. Music plays in the background of the kitchen, and text on the screen accompanies the movements of cooking. The text takes the tone of recollection, behaving like an absent soundtrack, or the rehearsal of a dialogue with a particular other. We see the action of hands: washing, breaking bay leaves, or wielding a short knife. At one point an image of comic violence is described in the text/soundtrack: a vulture is eating a fox, ‘the vulture stuck its head up the foxes arse, it started to move as it if it were alive.’ It is a perversion of the natural order, of birth, death, and desire for nourishment. Particularly interesting though, is the clash of word to image at this point. These feminine hands occupied with gentle domestic activity - wielding that short knife - become possible arbiters of violence. Directly, there is no such threat, but an alternative power is gifted upon these hands, and the potential for their diversion from a closed set of actions.


The space of the film’s display was once a Methodist Hall, and the film is shown at the upper level of the main hall, on one of three tiers that would have separated an audience – allowing optimum view for the optimum number of people. The wooden surface solicits you to procure a splinter, if only to demonstrate its age and texture. There are remnants of fluff between the boards, and a penny (Queen side-up) has been dropped on the tier below Ginny’s film. It reminds me of her paintings.

Along the course of a drive – to form, to another body, to a certain end – the paintings demonstrate a fixation with peripheral items accumulated on the way. Think of ‘pervert the course of justice’, a perversion is misdirection. To interrupt the drive is to deviate, to become too interested in peripheral items – the objects of the drive over its object. But there is beauty in the protracted linger upon those objects, in what might be found along the journey of the diversion.

GS