© John Wood and Paul Harrison


Wood & Harrison (1969 & 1966 – )


Accession number


Two men, the artists John Wood and Paul Harrison, are seated facing one another, side on to the camera, on white plastic garden furniture. The furniture - two seats and a table - is the generic kind that is both instantly recognisable and anonymous. They appear to be in a flat featureless space that is painted green, although the image is broken up by a white line running vertically down the centre of the screen, from the centre of the table towards the sky, and from the back of each chair off screen to the left and the right. Both men, dressed in black and with trademark deadpan expressions, have their hands on the table in front of them. After a few seconds, and with no obvious warning, they take their hands off the table moments before the table is lifted from the ground and flies upward off screen. In a fluid, synchronised movement, the pair unblinkingly rise to their feet before their chairs are also dragged quickly off screen, one to the left and one to the right. All of this happens, in a seemingly minimal fashion, in under a minute.

Table and Chairs (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. They are straight-faced though often carrying out absurd tasks and experiments although often, as in this work, it seems that events just happen to them unbid.

The green of the walls and floors, in this instance is somewhat reminiscent of grass, and the white lines of string that pull table and chairs off screen create the dividing lines of a pitch, tennis court or playing field, and play is a good way of thinking about Wood & Harrison’s work. The wordplay in the term ‘drawing things’, for example, may consider the meaning of the word which means ‘to pull towards’ <&ndash>–these chairs are table are drawn with lines of a sort. The action of having chairs pulled out from under you is also something of a practical joke, the violence of which has been explored to excess in Bruce Nauman’s A Violent Incident (1986), however here Wood & Harrison see the joke coming – they masterminded it, after all. It is appropriate to their minimal, pared down practice of gestures that, in a work entitled Table and Chairs, even the title objects are stripped away.