© John Wood and Paul Harrison

3D BUCKET 2001

Wood & Harrison (1969 & 1966 – )


Accession number


On screen, we see a man standing alone in a blankly white interior, towards the left-hand side and back of a space which appears not unlike a white cube gallery or studio set. He starts to take one step forward, followed by one to the side and so on, diagonally across the space. As soon as he leaves his position and moves to a new one, an empty bucket falls from above and lands on the floor with a clatter on the spot he just left. The man is unflinching, and simply continues his routine progress across the space. This happens three times, before he has made his way much closer to the camera and to the far right of the screen. He simply stands still, blinking once, as the buckets roll a little aimlessly, before the picture fades to white and repeats again.

The man in question is John Wood, who, with Paul Harrison form something of a double act in the traditional comedic sense, and have been compared variously to Waiting for Godot’s Vladimir & Estragon, comedians Morecambe and Wise and baleful everymen Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. Here many of the classic American cartoon pairings come to mind<&ndash>–Tom and Jerry or Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, as eternal nemeses, as it impossible not to imagine that it Wood’s partner Harrison who is dropping the buckets from the sky (it probably is). The difference here is that, unlike the classic cartoon villains, Harrison is trying to miss, in a choreographed sequence exploring the effect of watching a failed slapstick episode.

3D Bucket (2001<&ndash>– 02) is part of a larger installation of Wood & Harrison’s entitled Twenty Six (Drawing and Falling Things), which comprised of a 26 television screen installation of similar short works, all under three minutes, which are looped continuously. The action is always shot from a fixed position, rendering the space in which action can take place square, flat and un-moving, and, as the title suggests, explore situations and actions in which mark-making and gravity play a large part. Each shows the artists, sometimes one, sometimes both, as the only protagonists.

A preparatory drawing for 3D Bucket by Paul Harrison shows simply a figure in the centre of the paper with only the basic necessary arrows and lines to denote line, gravity<&ndash>– direction of buckets falling (down), direction of man walking. The movement is described in the sketch as ‘waltz<&ndash>– 3 step, side step’, and the words ‘CLOSE MISS’ are marked out in dark capitals. The minimal execution<&ndash>–figure, ground, arrows, bucket, are an indicator of the artists’ desire to explore not only small, absurd gestures in the most pared down possible environment, but also the deceptively complex mechanics of movement which are at once existential and comedic.