Sophie B

From Fine Art Wiki
Revision as of 13:30, 1 May 2017 by Sophie bates (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)

Text on Method: Sophie Bates

This is a statement explaining how my ideas and research come into being artworks. I want the reader to understand how and why I work through my ideas. By writing this text and comparing old works to new works, I hope to come to an understanding of where I am with my practice.

I will begin by briefly summing up my working methods, followed by descriptions and intentions of works I have made at PZI, how these relate to older work, my research strands and finally my future work. I believe my works mostly come from the same pool of ideas. I don’t work on a single project or single work at a time, each work leads to the next and material spreads across multiple works.

Frequently, my work is triggered by an everyday or ordinary encounter with an object, word or sentence or phrase, idea or experience. Hence, these ideas are based in my reality and aim to engage with an audience where they can associate or empathise with it. In the work, I draw upon irony or hyperbole to develop from my initial idea. I find there is a thin line between things being ironic or sentimental, and I find this an intriguing confine to work around. I see connections throughout my work which link to things I’ve been reading or things I encounter in my life. My work doesn’t relate directly to research as I digest information slowly over time. I tend to feel intuitive about an idea, but after reflecting, I realise many strands of research come through my ideas over time.

I use texts a lot, often a mixture of found texts from articles and books, generic sentences or clichés and I use them without attribution. I make notes on my mobile; often internal thoughts, private notes, reflections on my actions; small anecdotes about particular objects; slogans from advertising; material people text me and twitter. I put them in a word document and make scripts, consider the length of each sentence, interweaving the sentences and reading out loud as I work. I revisit the text intermittently. This provides a framework for videos.

“Shy Girls performance” is my latest work in which I will use the video documentation as material for future work. The performer (myself) is kneeling in the centre of the space, there are chairs surrounding for the audience to face different directions and not necessarily towards the performer. This is deliberate in order to arrange the audience’s gaze. The composition allows the performance to be watched from many angles, to create multiple viewing experiences. I am interested in the gaze and interaction between audience and viewer. By thinking about the positioning of the audience, I aim to create a non-confrontational, non-spectacle approach to this performance. The gaze of the performer will be an engagement with the material and their own flesh. The performer will take on a role as a sort of ‘non-body’, a non-individual, rather acting as one entire body or mass in relation to identity or stereotype.

The performer is naked and around her are four bowls filled with a mixture of cheap melted ice cream (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate). The performer begins putting the ambiguous substance on her feet and working gradually up to her face. While she is doing this, she speaks two words, “Special” and “Smothered”. The voice begins in a whisper and gradually develops into a loud shout or scream. Once the body is covered, she pauses and breathes heavily. Her legs are trembling throughout.

The performance was an experiment to see where the work could lead. I decided these two words had become important to me and I wanted to talk about the multiple meanings associated with them. I wanted to raise urgency by the performance specific medium about issues affecting women today, relating to food, consumption, body-image, control, and social pressures. The performance lasts for ten minutes and by the end, the performers skin will be covered or ‘Smothered’ in the physical ice cream, a thin layer coating the skin to conceal or protect. The piece aims to reflect on the gendered emotions of doubt, self-consciousness and anxieties when exposed to societal pressures and constructs of contemporary life.

Using the naked body has a lot of connotations. I am aware of objectification and sexualising the body through the viewer’s gaze, but I am keen to see how I can redirect these common associations. I want to transform the work into a video piece, highlighting different parts of the body and using voice to contradict meaning. This is a method I have used previously, Haircutting performance (2015), where I layered voice and subtitles to expose an inner contradictory voice to the one that appears in the actual performance.

A previous work was ‘Strawberry’, a two-minute video work with three shots. It begins in a kitchen at the window with the camera facing against the light. A silhouette of a disfigured strawberry is held up by the hand of the protagonist. The protagonist plays with the strawberry in her hand, twisting it around to reveal its form. The ‘Strawberry’ is dropped and with an exaggerated sound effect you hear it hit the windowsill. The camera begins zooming in and out of the strawberry and a voice over starts to say, “You are not perfect” over and over again in different edited voices. Then you see the protagonist eat the strawberry with a close up shot of the mouth and there is laughing from an external source.

‘Strawberry’ 2016

‘Strawberry’ was filmed using a hand held mobile camera as in many of my other works. The use of my own voice and body as well as the medium made this work relate to previous works. The internal domestic setting of ‘Strawberry’ creates an intimate environment conducive to feelings of anxieties and self-consciousness prevalent in previous works. It was filmed in my new kitchen which creates a different aesthetic from my old environment. For me, it was still very much associated with my wider practice in content but in the new setting of where I live. It has a YouTube or DIY quality - my means of filming are amateur as I am thinking about de-skilling or anti-art aesthetic. In ‘Strawberry’ the light is purposely behind the object in focus creating an undesirable view of the strawberry.

The video produced discussion around the subject of imperfection versus perfection and how it can be portrayed through the media and advertising. The repetition and exaggerated tone created a critique of the desire for perfection and aimed to raise issues about shame, embarrassment, self-image or perception, consumption, advertising, social constructs and a gendered vulnerability. My choices of the words such as “special” and “perfect”, I think are memorable and also relate to the language of advertising. People have certain associations with these sorts of words and by repeating them I attempt to distort and disturb that association.

‘Shy Girls’ and ‘Strawberry’ were different in format, one being a video and one being a performance. The performance was a more planned and prepared work whereas the video was more spontaneous and made instantaneously. I thought about the performance for a few months and it developed, changed and adapted as I worked through the ideas and planning. ‘Strawberry’ was an encounter and quickly documented through instinct. The initial idea was how the work took form. The performance had a more serious and vulnerable tone whereas ‘Strawberry’ was more playful and ironic. Once the performance develops into video, it will also adapt a different mood from the live performance. These are two modes I have identified by reflecting on my past work.

I make many videos that are under ten minutes. I think of my works as separate pieces once they are done, but I am interested in detecting links between them and presenting work alongside one another to build a bigger picture for the viewer.

In an alternative setting, I think the work could exist in online forums or websites that deal with female insecurities and for younger girls or teens worrying about body imperfections. It could be used as a sort of mockery of advertisements to remind us of being saturated by perfect bodies in the media and being brain-washed into buying products to enhance ourselves/lives.

I have been reading Susan Bordo’s ‘Unbearable Weight’, which is about conceptions of the body or distorted self-perception due to media pressures and commercials as well as eating disorders, reproductive rights for women and gender scepticism in postmodern culture. I am interested in unpacking emotional baggage, which can be seen as destructive or inhibiting for my generation. As I work from a personal gendered outlook, I often find myself looking toward feminist discourse about anxieties and insecurities about one’s own body and mind. I use an inner voice to express a neuroticism or angst in relation to guilt versus pleasure in a conflicting dialogue. I am able to visualise some of it as imagery or spoken word through my own art-making. I am using transcripts from male and female perspectives to look at patterns in speech and also writing my texts from a personal or inner voice. I feel influenced by the writing style of Hélène Cixous and Clarice Lispector (Jan’s Seminar) which I hope may inspire my writing. I often record spoken word and then transcribe it into text, so it’s often spoken before it’s written.

‘Activities for Couples’ (October 2016) takes generic stock photography of leisure activities or ideas for dates into a slide show presentation with a voice-over, naming each activity. I would say it’s a comment on leisure activities or non-places through the banality of modernity or heteronormativity. This work was inspired by watching a lot of dating shows, stumbling on blogs related to love advice and beginning to read ‘Why Love Hurts’ by Eva Illouz.

‘Activities for Couples’ 2016

‘Now’s a good time to get up in the time zone you’re in’ was the last work I made before coming to the PZI. It contains a variety of short shots ranging from one to ten seconds. The shots vary from close-ups of a body to wider, more staged shots of interiors and exteriors as well as products and food. There is a female voiceover that speaks in a low unembellished tone at a constant speed which creates a rhythm. The voice talks in the first and third person, alluding to different perspectives from an individual. The work arose from a text that was made by weaving many narratives together from my own writing as well as using found text from self-help advertising for anxieties on social media. It aims to create a relentless but trancelike experience for the viewer.

Still from ‘Now’s a good time to get up in the times zone you’re in’ 2016 password:soft

My works currently in progress include a piece that stems from a diary voice note. The work will most likely be a video with the possibility of the text being used in a performance. I want to base the footage around some of the images and visuals spoken about in the text. I want it to have a similar hand-held camera filming style or possibly I should try out something new, as I realise as I am writing this I’m quite stuck in my routine and should probably try and change things up a little. I will shoot some clean shots that would contrast the tone of the text. I think there needs to be some kind of juxtaposition or tension between language and visuals, which has been lacking in previous works. I will go back to the text and think about different ways to read it or perform it. And then maybe the tension can come from that rather than changing the way I film. (These are some thoughts and dilemmas I am currently working through.)

Other works I want to continue developing are, the video piece stemming from ‘Shy Girls performance’ and videos I’ve started but haven’t finished, some of which will be used in a collaborative show with Timur Akhmetov in the Free Shop.

These works are the next intuitive steps in my making process. I think it’s necessary for me to not think too hard about why I am making work and hopefully through the process, links and connections to previous works will reveal themselves. I think it’s good for me to make this work without having a presentation moment in mind and to see my natural working mode without having the pressure of a Group Critique. I hope to finish and tie up any loose ends of my pieces this term and throughout the summer. I hope to bring forward the material and ideas I am most happy with into my second year at the PZI. I aim to refine the research and be able to present a concise plan for my second year. I believe it is possible to do so after reflecting on my methods and process throughout this text.