There is no better metaphor for the human urge to defy gravity and reach up and take flight than the pole vault. In competition, athletes must set the bar ever higher, and always feel confident about exceeding their target.
Pivoting on a series of sequences of leading British pole-vaulter Kate Dennison, susan pui san lok’s Lightness explores the rhythms and psychology of this complex event – its cycles of training and competition, the recycling of past and present to imagine the future. Switching between three separate video screens, the piece follows the nuances of Dennison’s preparations and motivations, in the same way as its shifting angles and camera-perspectives dissect the mechanics of the vault itself. Interspersed with footage of young pole-vault hopefuls in the early stages of training at Lee Valley Athletics Club, Lightness is a meditation on the optimism and confidence that both buoy and sustain the athlete – in an event in which staying up is absolutely paramount.
Thanks to Kate Dennison and coach, Scott Simpson, at Loughborough HiPAC, and to coach, John Mahon, Enfield and Haringey Athletics Club, at Lee Valley Athletics Centre.
susan pui san lok
susan pui san lok's practice ranges across installation, moving image, sound, performance and text. Her work engages with notions of nostalgia and aspiration, place and migration, translation and diaspora. Solo projects include Faster, Higher, 2008, commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and the British Film Institute; DIY Ballroom / Live, 2007-8, a Cornerhouse Bigger Picture national touring commission; and Golden, 2005-7, an exhibition, residency and publication project sited at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, and Beaconsfield, London. She has exhibited in London at Café Gallery Projects, SPACE Triangle, and the Hayward Gallery; and more widely in the UK at Cornerhouse, Manchester, the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, and WDC Gallery, Winchester. She has also featured in group exhibitions at Beijing 798 Space, Gallery 4A, Australia, Shanghai Duolun Moma, and SITE Sante Fe, New Mexico. Her publications include book chapters, articles, photo-essays, and three artist's books, Faster, Higher, 2009; Golden (Notes), 2007; and NEWS, 2005.
Professor Clayton & Dr Sharot
Nicky Clayton is Professor of Comparative Cognition, in the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge. She is also Scientist in Residence at Rambert Dance Company.
Dr Tali Sharot is a faculty member of the Department of Cognitive, Perceptual, and Brain Sciences at University College London and a Wellcome Trust Fellow. Her scholarly research focuses on how emotion, motivation and social factors influence our expectations, decisions and memories. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book The Optimism Bias.