This March we are delighted to premiere a new film by artist Sam Laughlin. Falling wall, rising dust was especially commissioned in 2020 to document the closing chapter of John Hansard Gallery’s former home on the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus (1979–2018).
From the outset, the tone and pace of the film is one of suspense and anticipation. Shot in slow motion on a high-speed camera, Falling wall, rising dust records the impact of the demolition excavator as it knocks and tears at the building’s façade, exposing its very infrastructure.
The film opens with a constricted view of the excavator’s claw, as it lowers into the camera-frame to gradually push the south-facing wall inwards. What appears to be a brutish act, is in fact a carefully choreographed process, as the machine’s operator cautiously dances out its steps. At times the excavator pushes, pulls and pounds, creating swirls of dust and debris, and yet at others, it delicately pincers to select particular fragments. An immersive electronic soundtrack composed by musician Joe Deamer accompanies the demolition, intensifying and receding to the movement of the machinery.
Falling wall, rising dust follows Sam Laughlin’s previous John Hansard Gallery commission, Constructions (2018). Using photographic stills, Laughlin was invited to capture the development of our new home in Guildhall Square. Laughlin recorded temporary situations onsite, some incidental, others he arranged himself as interventions, with both works focusing on the make-up of a building in opposing ways, questioning the nature of the built environment.
Sam Laughlin’s (b. Cambridgeshire, UK, 1990) practice is concerned with a variety of forms and processes both natural and man-made. Much of his recent work focusses on natural processes and animal behaviour. Laughlin has exhibited widely both in the UK and internationally, including the Brighton Photo Fringe 2016, where he received the Danny Wilson Memorial Award, and more recently at Jerwood Space and Impressions Gallery. In January 2017, Laughlin was awarded the Jerwood/Photoworks Award to fund the production of new work. He works mainly on artistic commissions, most recently for Towner Gallery and GRAIN Projects.