by Cara Tolmie

man and woman sat down looking into camera


  • 1production image, Cara Tolmie production
  • 2production image, Cara Tolmie production

production image, Cara Tolmie production


Cara Tolmie's new film, Pley, surveys the changing behaviour of those who are asked to accept new norms, and the effects of specific environments upon language.

Pley was shot inside a structure specifically designed by the artist to host a series of encounters between three strangers. The set is comprised of two spaces, one inside the other, though at no point while watching the film does the viewer see its exterior or understand fully its internal architecture. Over a number of hours the participants undertook activities devised by Tolmie that were deliberately left undocumented. Instead, the interviews that the artist conducted afterwards form the basis of the work. Filmed individually, the participants reflect on their assumptions about each other, about Tolmie herself and about the tasks they were asked to fulfill. Their responses reveal differing inclinations to accept or challenge the temporary social setting into which they were placed.

Tolmie's non-linear edit interweaves the participants' reactions and interpretations with sequences filmed with a fourth person: an actress marking time in the set. The woman appears to report back via her phone to an outside world whose characteristics quickly seem to shift as she reveals different personas. It is through these scenes that we glimpse aspects of the set and its various props, such as a heap of gravel and a fish tank filled with water, mud and stones, which also may have been used previously by the three participants in their activities. Moving between the assured actions of the actress and the dreamlike recollections of the participants, the film shifts our perceptions of what constitutes naturalistic and nonnaturalistic behaviours.

Pley will be presented for the first time at Spike Island as a single large-scale projection with seating designed by the artist. Tolmie's use of bright colour and geometric shapes within the installation references the visual aspects of the film set that are more often spoken of than actually witnessed. This reflects the artist's wider concern with the performative role that language plays, both in reflecting on reality and in shaping our understanding of that reality through speech.


Year 2013
Duration 18 minutes 57 seconds
Medium Single screen video projection
Original format HD 1080p25 (H.264)
Screening format Bluray 1080i50 / HD MPEG-2 transport stream
Aspect ratio 16:9
Audio Yes
Colour / B&W Colour
Screens 1

External links:


Pley was commissioned and produced by Picture This with support from Arts Council of England, Hamilton Corporate Finance Ltd, The Elephant Trust and The Island

Exhibition: 13 April to 16 June 2013

Spike Island
133 Cumberland Road

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Cara Tolmie works with performance, film and installation.

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