Play It Again Sam

Play It Again Sam

An installation which can be various sizes shown above in two exhibitions which it has been shown in.

Approx.: 400 x 200 x 250 cm 

...We think we speak the English, or French, of today. But our English or French language of today is of yesterday and elsewhere. The miracle is that language has not been cut from its archaic roots -- even if we do not remember, our language remembers, and what we say began to be said three thousand years ago. Inversely language has incorporated our own times, before even we know, the most recent elements, linguistic and semantic particles blown by the present winds.

Hélène Cixous

This is an extract from a reader critiquing the ‘deconstruction’ movement from 1960’s France, now out of favour with many but still a favourite of academia. The term deconstruction suffers from the vagaries of language it seeks to examine, it seeks to ‘undo’ or to ‘analyse’ but the terms visual and perceptible similarities with the word destruction emphasizes the confusion in language which is a mainstay in perpetuating the narrative which gives rise to the sense of who and what we are.   

Within this confusion of language we use to construct the narratives and traditions we base our beliefs on, myth as well as fact becomes part of the narrative.

The expression “Play it again Sam” comes from the film “Casablanca” featuring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, but Bergman never said the words ‘play it again Sam’, she said ‘play it Sam, play it’, but it is the myth which has become the reality and is used by even those who are aware of this inaccuracy.

The scattered piano keys suggest it is impossible to ‘play it again’, for anything to be played again the keys need to be in order, this points to the paradox in deconstruction as it needs to used the language it deconstructs with all its vagaries to pass on its ideology. Also in the piece are items like the hat and coat from Bogart’s famous detective films like ‘The Big Sleep’ which were never used in Casablanca but as the narrative develops over time, these items become associated with the memorized narrative constructed within the mind.

The constant tick of the metronome makes one very aware of time passing as the piece is viewed. This piece examines the importance of what is in the narrative and how it is constructed, as well as the overall importance of narrative and tradition. 


Throughout our lives the unitary whole we see as ourselves is subject to a continual learning and re-evaluation process through our engagement with people, events, objects and concepts on a daily basis.  This process, which goes on mainly unnoticed, is more apparent when we live through critical events that cause us to consciously think deeply about our views. However our core beliefs are a reassuring anchor in the ongoing process; is it the case that we seek the reassurance of communities and creeds that affirm our beliefs rather than examine contrary evidence and the potential that change can perhaps offer? How we choose the information and ideas which we will internalise or discard is a process we are all continually engaged in. James Flynn describes this filtering process as the work of the “Gatekeeper”.

 “You must be the gatekeeper that filters out what is worth remembering and decides what is true or false. Otherwise you are at it’s (the modern world) mercy and drift through a life that you manage only day by day.”    James R. Flynn (Professor Emeritus University of Otago, New Zealand).

When introduced to new experiences and concepts, there are consequences to accepting and internalizing new information, current values or ideas have to be adjusted.  Frequently however the harder one tries to understand and legitimise the consequences within the mind just as a solution appears imminent it disappears like a mirage. There is no certainty and in the end we simply weigh up new thoughts, old values, and new possibilities and synthesize a new perspective with which we are comfortable. Like a Jigsaw with missing fragments there is never a whole picture, but that is what we imagine a completed picture as the process continually alters the shape of the jigsaw.

This thought process that refuses to offer up specific solutions, answers that cannot be defined, is the domain of the “Gatekeeper”, it is also a fertile area that art and artists can explore and use; each of the works in the exhibition through each individual artists understanding, chosen language and method of working seeks to make the viewer aware of the their thinking, the potential and concerns they see in specific areas and different perspectives on a variety of issues, at times challenging us and helping us to make sense of our experience of life through the experiences and ideas explored and illuminated by the artists.

Art has been an integral part of this process from the first prehistoric cave paintings through the Renaissance to Modern Art but artists like everyone make judgements and it is for the “Gatekeeper” within the viewer, to explore and decide the value and effectiveness of each work but through completing the conversation the viewer should hope to experience the unspoken language that can be found in all art.