Hanging, as they are, in dialogue, I am reminded of Fiona Tan’s Rise and Fall, 2009: a video-diptych where water becomes a metaphor for time and memory in the lives of two women. In this earlier work, shots of Niagara Falls are interspersed with moments of intimacy — hands caressing bare skin, the application of make-up. In Vertical red and Vertical white, I find myself reaching for natural metaphors: the traffic ‘flows’ endlessly like Rise and Fall’s bodies of water. Likewise, Vertical wide, a third looped video of a highway at night, captures a veritable river. Shot from a more expansive vantage point, we see head- and tail- lights streaming alongside each other, cutting through the city. Here, we’re permitted a sense of distance. In the frame’s top-left corner, the divided highway tapers to a vanishing point, the narrow neck of an hourglass whose sand trickles both ways.
The traffic in Los Angeles is notorious. Tan’s Vertical pieces are remarkable not only for transmuting the urban to the natural, but for making a highly stressful situation into an exercise in self-soothing. It is difficult to imagine being in any one of these cars: rather, when occasionally a car merges it is a gesture of anonymity, the feeling of having slipped off into the night. These are freeways in deep time.