One does not pet a rattlesnake until it has been defanged; only then does one take it on the road so that one and all can marvel at its natural beauty is a video by Tim Wagg that takes its title from Uneven Development, a book on global geographies and economics by Neil Smith. Produced during a residency at The Physics Room, the video is set in a local abandoned strip club. The work explores themes of angst and isolation through subjective and destabilising camerawork, creating a charged space that contains both realism and fantasy.
With a shaky camera and a single light source, Wagg’s video develops his interest in handheld camera movements as a way to pitch the body against its surroundings. Applying similar techniques to those used in recent video works, such as I’m too spiteful to let things go cold (2014) made with Dan Nash, such effects create an atmosphere both hostile and foreboding. In the first part of the video, the camera is an unmediated, disorientating eye that roams the looted and broken interior of the disused bar, with its paper money and childish sex trophies. Later, this haste and uncertainty gives way to a second scene in which a boyish young girl appears wearing a blue fur coat, to reenact an adult fantasy.
One does not pet a rattlesnake until it has been defanged borrows from cinema, music videos, and alt-lit. In the final moments, a female narrator can be heard describing obstacles to losing oneself, revealing a desire for solitude and anonymity and suggesting that such aims are the new forms of radical abandon in a connected age.