THE GHOST OF ARTWORKS PAST
In the corner of the exhibition space is a doorway which has been partially boarded up with cardboard. At the bottom of the doorway a flatscreen monitor is set into the cardboard, in a recession built into the structure, forming a short tunnel, maybe a metre long. You have to crouch, or kneel, or squat, or lie on the floor to see the work properly. The monitor shows a four-minute video piece, with sound. A camera moves at floor level around a space that is not the exhibition space, cutting between different rooms of an old building. The sound of the camera being pushed along the floor creates a sense of animism, of the camera having its own vitality or agency.
[Can you talk about the visuals in the video, colours, textures and atmosphere of the building and what is the building old bulding?where? and maybe why?]
The building is a 19th century baronial home on the east coast of Scotland, now a residency centre for artists, and it has a distinctive interior décor, with coloured carpets and various textures. Having the camera so close to the floor, with a shallow depth of field, gives an impressionistic view of these surroundings.
The video was made simply, by pushing my camera around the floor of a building where I was on residency. The sound was recorded on the camera’s internal microphone. [what did you do with the footage you recorded?] The installation was also a simple setup using a monitor and speakers, cardboard and duct-tape.
I was interested in how you create the idea of agency and animism through the movement of a camera, and in the cinematic history of the camera representing itself through movement. I had the idea of creating a subaltern cinema,
[expand why you wanted to do this and maybe what it is?] with the subject being that of a rat or other small intruder [why did you want to create this viewing experience? Why did you put it in the corner of an exhibition space, was it a group or solo show? is this your ideal presentation of the video?]
There was a feeling of being overawed by the architecture and interior of the residency space. It was both a creative place to be and constrictive in its fussiness, in the (monetary and cultural) value attached to the furnishings. I wanted a way to work within the space that didn’t beatify or glamourise it too much. I was also thinking about different ways of moving through the space depending on the subject’s relationship to it. How would present and former employees respond to the space? How would a non-human perceive it? The presentation of the work was as cheap as possible, within the constraints of a group show, and with very little budget. Using the doorway to produce this small tunnel was a practical choice. The presentation maybe wasn’t totally ‘ideal’, but having no money for something produces a certain discipline, and shows how much you can achieve with little means.
-how does it relate to previous works?-
The work relates to a long-held interest in the history of cinema, and the ways in which video and installation can abstract or isolate cinematic devices.
[I don't really get what you mean here, can you expand? how does a cinematic device (do you mean camera?) becoming abstracted or isolated by video or installations?]
By cinematic devices I mean everything from cameras, to montage, to a particular way of panning, deciding to have a handheld shot instead of using a tripod, etc. Video art/installation, because of the fact that it doesn’t have to employ a narrative structure as in a lot of mainstream cinema, has the freedom to explore more formal or abstract or other aspects of cinema. Previous works have been literal deconstructions of video equipment such as projectors. There are questions of how to reconstitute cinematic perception and the subjective relationship to art and/or cinema.
[why does this interest you?]
I think it’s an interest in the means of production of the work/discourse. On my undergraduate at some point I just started taking apart old, broken projectors from the equipment store and I had no idea what any of it did beyond a really basic understanding of optics, but there was something cathartic in being able to say “ok, this is the thing I use to make/show my work” -what is its relationship to a scene/community?- I was interested in historical (‘60s/’70s/’80s) approaches to expanded cinema, which seemed to be undergoing something of a resurgence around the time I was making the work. Glasgow, its art community and various institutions which brought international work to the city were undoubtedly important to the germination of the piece. The influence of organisations like LUX was similarly crucial.
[Is this still relevant for you in Rotterdam, if so how and why? other than that good answer]
I still feel attached to Glasgow, so in that sense yes. There are equivalent communities, archives, co-operatives in the Netherlands but I’m not particularly involved with them yet. I would like to be at some point.
-what is the broader context?-
There is a general interest in mediation, in common with much contemporary art which drives the work. The space of contemporary art perhaps allows you to step back from 24 hour news cycles and social media in order to attempt a deeper view, or a more historical one, or to consider things from a different angle, to figure the context from which contemporary phenomena emerge.
[how do you make or tempt someone to engage on a deeper level through artworks? What tools? Is this a criticism on how people receive and engage with news?]
I don’t know if you can tempt people as such. It’s not really a criticism, I’m not anti-technology or anti-twitter, it’s more that there’s a value in different ways of engaging with things, in long-reads and abstraction and things not making sense, or being containers for information. I guess this is more about art in general than about my art in particular.
THE GHOST OF ARTWORKS PRESENT
The work is a floor-based installation incorporating various elements, including tennis balls, computer-printed imagery, crumpled paper, a pomodoro timer and modular origami. I am going to start introducing sound elements through speakers embedded in the tennis balls.
[what's the new sound element]
The sound will be a mixture of spoken word and found sounds. Previously, I read out a text considering the uses of metaphor in political discourse, but I have removed this aspect from the work.
Most of the elements of the work are found or bought objects, things that were easily to hand. The images were taken from the internet and printed on the PZI printer. The work is a coming-together of various things: the tennis balls from amateur motion-capture technology, the images from research into Dutch Polders and land art, the rest objects that had been sitting in studio waiting to be used
[expand meaning and research]
The starting point was an interest in the Dutch concept of the ‘Polder Model’ – using the landscape as a metaphor for a political process. This expanded out into a general interest in the manufacturing of a landscape, in the history of Dutch ‘scenario design’, how that might relate to a technocratic politics and how a cultural form like land art might make sense in that context.
[where had these objects come from?]
Decathlon, Wikipedia commons, mail-order sites, art supply shops.
-how is it similar to previous works?-
The use of sound in relation to visual material is a combination that I have explored before, and there is a sense of animism, in common with previous work. The consideration of political form, abstraction and metaphor are all long-held interests. Games, timing, playfulness are all recurring themes.
-how is it different from previous works?-
The work did incorporate video in its first iteration, though really only as a container for text, and future iterations are unlikely to have any moving image element, in contrast with previous work.
[what are you getting rid of the video element? explain choices?]
This is mostly just a challenge to myself, to interrupt my previous methods and ways of working. An entirely floor-based installation is a new method of presenting a piece, and many of the materials used are also new.
[why on the floor?]
Having the piece on the floor makes the viewer engage with the work topographically, as though in a map or looking at an aerial photograph. The introduction of a text is also relatively new, though it is something I have been starting to incorporate in my work.
[how do you think you can make text works digestible and interesting for an audience?]
Making the text performative in some way, or musical, either through my own body or working with audio in different ways, is key in making this part of the installation.
-who has been helpful in the production of the work?-
Tutors, peers and time have all helped provide the distance required after the first iteration of the work, to reconsider it and think how it could be improved. Presenting the work in a group crit was invaluable to understanding how an audience might interact with the work as an installation, in space. Making the work is essential to its making.
THE GHOST OF ARTWORKS YET TO COME
The work will be a performance, probably in a dark space. I will be wearing an imitation of a motion-capture suit – black with small white balls attached to it at regular intervals – and speaking a text which forms one half of a conversation, as though on the phone to someone, or receiving radio instructions. The form of the conversation is not completely clear – perhaps some kind of wage-labour relationship, or something more abstract. A power dynamic with an unseen other, like something from a Beckett play.
[sounds nice] [why you want to do this?]
-how is it useful for you?-
I want to continue to push myself to make performance, and this piece is a way to bring together ideas around performance art as labour and contemporary labour as a constant ‘performing’ (drawing on writing by Claire Bishop, among others). Writing the text would also be a useful exercise and challenge. The motion-capture suit links nicely with previous work, and brings in a visual signifier of rationality or logic.
[why useful in general with relation to practice and research? how is it the next step?]
The next step is to make the costume and write the text. At this point I think I need to start producing more without questioning so much.