#CASathome: Climbing Around My Room, by Lucy Gunning

8 April 2020 By

This film was online from 12.00, 8 April 2020 to 12.00, 11 April 2020

On the third week of our collective lockdown, we are very pleased to be able to show Lucy Gunning’s iconic 1993 film Climbing Around My Room. As tempting as it might be in the current situation, please do not try this at home. Presented for 72 hours only thanks to the generosity of Greene Naftali Gallery, Climbing around My Room was donated by the Contemporary Art Society to the Harris Museum in Preston in 2000, the first moving image work in their collection.

In this work, usually shown on a CRT monitor mounted on a high shelf, a female figure (not the artist herself) attempts to manoeuvre her way around the edges of a room, ensuring her feet never make contact with the floor.

“As impossible as a dream, Lucy Gunning’s videowork Climbing Around My Room (1993) has the intensity of a fantasy born from hours of idle introspection, alone in one’s bedroom. With its elusive goal, its protagonist’s extravagant exertions, her endless, rhythmic circling of the limits of the space, and her thorough exploration of the room’s secret nooks and crannies, it is difficult to resist interpreting the scene as a metaphorically sexual one: the body might be the bedroom, and the act, played by a solitary performer, auto-erotic. This is not to reduce the piece to crude symbolism or to sexual theatre (although, with its emphasis on real time and energy, Climbing Around My Room is related to physical theatre) but to try to account for its strangely arresting effect. Gunning’s scenario describes something precarious and pleasurable, something dangerously yet delicately achieved. It is an image of excess, an enactment of desire in a landscape at once known and unknown. If, for Lacan, Bernini’s enrapt Saint Theresa represented the unrepresentable, a moment of jouissance frozen in stone, then Gunning’s video suggests jouissance not as one (or even many) particular moments, but as a psychic event played out in a cycle of perpetual, physical, motion.”

Extract from ‘Animal Instinct’, first published in Frieze Magazine Issue 21, Mar – Apr 1995


Gunning won critical acclaim for two early films Climbing Around My Room, 1993 and The Horse Impressionists, 1994, both of which engage with ideas about ‘acting out’. Her work ranges from documentary style filming of real-life subjects, to subjects that are structured and choreographed in order that she might film them. The emphasis is on behaviour of social groups or individuals, internal space / external space, habitable and inhabitable spaces, psychological space, and looking for spaces in between what already exists – and considering these in relation to the human condition.