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She Says, 'The Grooves Speak.'
3 min 20 sec video, mono sound, 1987

John Gillies' She Says the Grooves Speak 1987 is a short, tight work that plays on a youthful bond between rhythm and movement. The title’s double entendre – a matter-of-fact observation that record grooves translate sound, and the more suggestive notion that a musical groove can ‘speak’ to a body and compel it to move – is both a truism and a nod to popular music’s amalgam of fashion, sexuality and youth. Gillies’ choppy sampled soundtrack strengthens his percussive style of image editing, shaping a hypnotic aural and optical pulsation.

Peter McKay, Ten Years of Contemporary Art, The James C Sourris AM Collection, Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane 2011

In a medium noted abroad for the energetic proliferation of ‘scratch video’ (violently edited collages of TV imagery), it is surprising that, among lauded Australian video artists, perhaps only Peter Callas in his recent tapes (If Pigs Could Fly, 1987, and Night’s High Noon, 1988) and John Gillies (She Says, ‘The Grooves Speak’, 1987) have evolved spectacular and precise montage forms. This perhaps has something to do with these artists’ sensitivity to modern practices of of sound/music montage, examples of which power their visuals – enabling them to escape somewhat the optical, ‘contemplative’ bias of so many art-world types (a bias inherited from avant-garde film). One has hopes, however, for a newer generation of video experimentalists less steeped in the protocols of Art, and more interested in the energies and possibilities of montage.

Adrian Martin, in Contemporary Australian Collage, Craftsmen House, Sydney, 1990

first installed: Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney


National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane
Griffith University Art Collection, Brisbane

Exhibitions and Screenings

Ten Years of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane 2011

Audio Visueel Experimenteel, Arhnem 1989

Recent Acquisitions, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 1988

Aarhus Video Festival, Aarhus 1988

John Gillies: Video,  Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney 1987

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