In Shoufay Derz's video Depart without return we encounter a face painted in a deep indigo, that is seen framed by an apparently limitless blackness. A host of moths, their wings shuddering, crawl across the face - and this is the entirety of the video, a striking image held indefinitely by the loop of playback. The only real suggestion that this is a video is the motion of the wings of the moths and the very occasional movements of the face - a slight mouth or eyelid twitch. Without this movement the face might indeed be dead, or perhaps the body is very close to death, the moths transformed from a curious detail to a symbol of the spirit. 

Depart without return is layered with such meanings and associations. The work records a performance in which the artist lay in a canoe, and although it's not visible in the video itself, the action is in keeping with Derz's fascination with combining symbols rich with religious and secular meanings: the river as a separation between life and death and the ship that sails between this world and the next recur across numerous religions, while the colour blue is associated with the pantheon of Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist gods and is a symbol of the infinite. In modern Western art, the blue fields of Yves Klein's paintings and the residue of his anthropometries performances similarly suggest a transition from embodied action to immaterial ghost. The insect in the video is the silk moth (Bombyx mori), a moth that is blind and cannot eat or fly. In its pupa stage it creates a cocoon with a repetitive figure eight movement of its head, which in turn produces thread of up to eight kilometres in length. The coincidence of eights and the suggestion of the symbol for infinity are, for Derz, important and create an intriguing cross-cultural resonance in the image. 

The apparent stillness of Depart without return is significant, as the video proposes a tension between the moving image and the photograph. When the video is at its most still, its striking iconicity suggests movement, a spell disrupted by actual movement: like the moving photograph in Chris Marker's La Jettee, the presentation of time is suddenly disrupted, moving from a conceptual presentation of time to the sudden realisation that time is indeed passing. Where the still photograph has long been considered a capsule of lost time preserved in the process of its capture, a work like Depart without return short-cir.cuits nostalgia for the present moment. But given that the video is also a loop, the viewer has the uncanny option of reliving that moment over again. 

In Depart without return Derz achieves an eternal cycle of presentation in the repetition of the image. The figure and face, shrouded in darkness, so redolent of a religious icon, pays tribute to the reflexive process of presenting just such an image, both in and out of the subject itself, lost forever to our regard when we turn away but which remains as persistent and persuasive as a memory.  

Andrew Frost