Key facts about the artist

Jetsam (1995)

Currall playfully explores serious themes including morality, belief and ignorance
Lives and Works
Dumfries and Galloway
Beck’s Futures Shortlist 2003
Australian National University, Canberra


About Alan's work

Many of Alan Currall’s inexpensively shot videos feature the artist himself. Their low-tech nature contrasts with the complexity of the ideas behind them. Although his works are full of humour they often contain an element of tragicomedy. Currall playfully explores serious themes including morality, belief and ignorance.

Currall is the narrator in Word Processing (1995). A hand stabs fingers at the table and pompously instructs a tiny microchip to do as he bids. Like much of Currall’s work, this video takes the form of a monologue. Here he tells the small and unresponsive object to form letters and numbers on a screen that we cannot see. We all expect computers to interact with us instantly. When they don’t, our frustration with them sometimes seems like a one-sided conversation. The microchip looks remarkably like an insect. Rather than contrasting the worlds of technology and nature, here they are intermingled. Word Processing suggests both a comic theory of how technology might work by human coaxing and suggestion, and a more deep-seated exposure of our ignorance of the science behind computers.

Jetsam (1995) presents us with a deadpan Currall acting as an alien being. His mothership has crashed on the shores of Scotland and he has taken on human appearance. The alien Currall has decided to become an artist and has got a job at art school. The silliness of the scenario is entertaining. Yet day-to-day we all adopt roles and titles. Why do we decide to become certain people? Currall’s work reminds us that the word ‘alien’ comes from the Latin for ‘foreign’ or ‘other’. We can all relate to being aliens at some point. Jetsam reflects the insecurities and humour that come with acting up to our own adopted identities. Currall’s work uses simple technology and simple scenarios to expose the limits on our ability to understand and communicate information and the lengths to which we will sometimes go to disguise that.


Alan Currall (born 1964 in Stoke-on-Trent) completed his MFA at The Glasgow School of Art. He now teaches there and at Edinburgh College of Art. His work has been shown at venues including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, London; Tramway and Gallery of Modern Art, both Glasgow; Kiasma, Helsinki; Stavanger Kulturhus, Stavanger, Norway; and Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland. He won the Richard Hough Bursary in 1998. In 2001 he was the Scottish Arts Council Artist-in-Residence at the Australian National University, Canberra. In 2003 he was shortlisted for the Beck’s Futures Prize. He lives and works in Wanlockhead, Dumfries and Galloway.

More information

Claire Doherty and Sean Cubitt, Encyclopædia and Other Works, Film and Video Umbrella, London, 2000

Ben Judd, ‘Alan Currall’, Art Monthly, October 2002

Elsewhere on the web