Plum & Despair

Plum and Despair are short films by Glaswegian artist Stephen Sutcliffe which encompass a wide and varying range of different types of media:

“Glasgow Museums purchased five works by Sutcliffe for the City’s collection in 2013 but this is the first time the wall drawing, photograph and films are being exhibited in the gallery. We are delighted that Sutcliffe has lent us two further works for inclusion in the show.” – The Gallery of Modern Art

Despair (16:29) and Plum (04:21) both combine mixed audio and visuals in a way that grabs the attention of, and transfixes, the viewer. Despite watching the films twice, it was still rather difficult to pinpoint what it was all about or if there was any particular purpose to them. However, what I have come to realise by watching multiple short films is that they are never usually straightforward and with that being said, the films were still interesting, even though they were not exactly to my taste.

The beginning of Plum shows a rock pool where small tranquil waves move across the screen. Over time, small white scribbles, which was described by GOMA as ‘A disinterested doodle’, begin to take up the screen and the audio of a woman being interviewed fills the ears of whoever watches.

The audio is grainy, loud and almost abrasive – the calming water, the random drawings and the loud interview was a very weird combination. Unlike the water, these aspects do not typically flow together so well.


Next, mirrored images of people adorned in fine clothes in lavish locations take up the screen. Again, it’s all a bit weird and even the small amount of people who continue to enter and leave the room look bewildered as loud music crashes around the room.

Although, there is likely a great motive behind the meaning of the work it certainly is difficult to understand how all of the images correspond with the other sections in the film. It seems like a huge and random assortment of media, and whilst this doesn’t make it unlikable, it is quite a difficult watch.



An interview conducted with a man is next to appear and this time a doodle takes place in the form of a black moustache on the interviewees face; a childish take on humour that was actually quite funny.

In what I believe to be the start of the film ‘Despair’, the screen turns white and typewriter noises begin to play loudly as ‘I only came about my cough’ and the word ‘Despair’ appear across the screen. During this time, it’s impressive to see how the audio really comes into play as it is vital to conveying what is being watched.

In one scene, clock-work spheres cover the screen and two videos are played at the same time. The idea of the videos playing over one another in such a weird way was quite commendable, but funnily enough it was the most visually unappealing thing to look at. What was particularly interesting was how well the videos fit together, even if they weren’t supposed to.

Nearing the end of the film, bright colour finally took its rightful, and long awaited, place on the screen in the form of a mirrored water fountain.The purple water splashing on the screen to the somewhat classical music had an elegant feel and was nice to see.

In reflection, whilst it was not my cup of tea, I do appreciate the abundance of varying media that had been used and how much thought went into the audio. It was exceptionally creative and it was very different to anything I had seen before. The use of video and photography was great and it was clear that a lot of thought and time went into these two films, even if it did feel a tad mismatched and random at times.

Have a listen to what my friend thought about the film here 

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