Helen McCrorie

If play is neither inside nor outside, where is it?, 2019

HD Video

Helen McCrorie (b.1974) films people and communities engaged in essential human endeavours, such as working, playing or performing rituals. She interacts with her subjects over long periods of time, allowing for the meaning generated through the activities she records to unfold gradually, through collaborative and open-ended exploration of behaviours and social power structures. This disrupts the development of a singular position, instead producing multiple unexpected, and tangential narratives.

McCrorie views filmmaking as a collective social and educational process, the resulting film functioning as evidence of learning and exchange. Her films retain an element of openness and liveness, and she frequently reorganises the same footage for different contexts or includes film participants and audience members in screening events, thereby addressing traditional separations and hierarchies between filmmaker, subjects and audience.

The artist sees a strong link between her practice and how children learn through play, and this is directly addressed in If play is neither inside nor outside, where is it? (2019). McCrorie filmed a child-led outdoor playgroup in a former military camp in Perthshire, which contains a bunker that is in the process of being converted into a data-storage facility. The children explore the camp, repurposing objects and spaces, as a means of experiential learning. The film’s soundtrack emphasises the tactile learning experience; using recordings from free-play sound workshops with the children, as well as foley made by “playing” with objects in the studio. The video draws together the parallel forms of data-gathering that are taking place simultaneously but for conflicting ends.

Exhibited in:


The Tetley, Leeds (24 Sept 2019 → 19 Jan 2020)