Bastardstown, located in ‘sunny’ southeast Ireland, County Wexford (N 52° 11’ 15’’ W 6° 32 36”) is small town, or village, or rather townland. Although it actually exists, it’s also a fictive notion, a concept that figures in the work of Orla Barry, here as well as in previous work (Stoney Scrabble at Bastardstown, 2000-2006 and Foundlings, 2000). As before, Barry uses her own writings as a source, in a work that reflects a relationship—a dialogue or clash--between word and image. Her works aim to express the way we humans are, as language. This video’s paradox starts with its title: we see a so-called blogger describing a day in his life, a day in which he retreats from city to countryside. The work might be a kind of ‘retro’ black-and-white ‘videoblog’. We hear a low, speedy, male voice declaiming his interior voice, while we see a close-up of the man’s face.

He is a middle-aged, greying, with a sturdy face and looks straight into the spectator’s eyes. His busy mouth seems to spit out the words in machine gun mode. Once, he slips: Barry keeps this mistake purposely as the man starts over again, underscoring the fact that we’re witnessing a rehearsed text read by someone who is not addressing anyone in particular. Rather, it concerns a futile effort to address the world from the middle of nowhere. Somewhat different from earlier works, in which clear narrative structure is often forgone in favour of a poetic structure in which texts and images are built like verses of a poem, here we have a story that starts in ‘the city’ in the morning and ends somewhere in the middle of the night at the seaside, in Bastardstown.

In the morning, our man wakes up to brush his teeth. At this point “all the fumbling” begins. Already, the city mayhem and noise seems to be everywhere. Symbolically, it is with the sound of his electric toothbrush that “it all starts for real”. This ‘real’ is the reality of city life, the noise that permeates everything. While The Blogger’s mobile phone rings at 8:20, neighbours are already slaughtering a lamb in their garden. For the rest of us urbanites, the day will not bring fresh lamb but processed “urban fare; hot dogs, fried chicken, French fries, fried shrimp, frankfurters, hamburgers, tofu, hot corn, Italian sausage, seafood, shish kebab, cold beer, warm beer, soft drinks, hard alcohol, soya milk […] pot noodles, smoked chicken, smoked mackerel, smoked duck, charcoal broiled shish kebab.”

Other lists of things the city is made up of are spat out: the city is mechanical, superficial, mass-communicational, mass-mediatic. How can a small thought survive in such a place? In between these litanies, the progression of the day is shown in numbers, the only point of reference we have to something resembling a ‘blog’. 10:59 AM, 12:37 PM, 3:37 PM. The Blogger alternates between irony, discursive violence and despair: although the video’s black humour is strategic and substantive, the question permeating the film is serious and vital: is there an alternative to “the networked nirvana that we like to call city?”

Our blogger tries to find solace in Bastardstown, which consists of only ten or so summerhouses. Still, far away from the maddening crowd, he doesn’t seem to notice the irony of his situation as he rambles on about the evils of city life, predicting the apocalyptic future of both town and Bastardstown. Since it is of course exactly by using modern, urban, high-tech fiber technology that he can dully broadcast his blog (in which a man can be seen frantically rehearsing something like a television broadcast) that the paradox gains in intensity. (Do they only have black-and-white web cams in Bastardstown?)

Our mono-logic middle-aged male doesn’t seem to bother: recklessly, triumphantly, desperately, he utters a war cry: “The country versus the city. The monologue blogger has a head!” The Bastardstown Blogger is back in the place he was born. After all, “it’s like the dolphins, they prefer to strand themselves and die on land rather than drowning”.

(Steve Tallon)