Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Interview with Huw Andrews

Ultimate Blind Date
(SD Video, 1 min 54 secs)
(SD Video, 3 mins 39 secs)

Me: I recently saw your video You’ve Been Framed (2010) from the series Please Don’t Make
Me… (2010), on Slice arts show reel, Parkinson steps Leeds University Light Night 2010.
When I saw the video, I was with a few friends that had an obligation to stay with me, as I was
there to document mine and a friends works which where also on the show reel. What really
drew me to your film, was the reaction it seemed to provoke in my friends, it drew them out
of the lull of disinterest and seemed to connect with them on a level that the other films didn’t.
What led you to using
the Stig in such a way?

You've Been Framed
(SD Video, 1 min 26 secs)

Huw: I wanted to put the Stig through multiple challenges, sharing and ridiculing my self-imposed
ban on the TV show Top Gear. I started the ban because it and its presenters seemed to be
everywhere, like a plague or something. In response, I left a post-it note on the flat shared
TV which said, “Please don’t make me watch Top Gear anymore.” I also instinctively drew
a hangman’s noose next to the words. I think I was trying to offset pettiness with oddity.
Unintentionally, the note provided enough entertainment to rival Top Gear and months
later received a public outing at 2 Beechwood Avenue’s Salon show. I was invited by the
Umbrella One-Offs curators (www.umbrellaoneoffs.co.uk) to use Umbrella for their first One-
Off. I wanted to produce a series of works based on the note. It would be a challenge in
itself, as I had five days to make and install everything from scratch (www.huwandrews.com/
pleasedontmakeme.html). Months earlier, I received a Stig stress toy as a gift. I wanted to
see what would happen when driving over him, putting him through a washing cycle and
mixing him with standard You Tube clips.

Me: You seem to have an interesting relationship with television, how would you say that this
impacts your practice?

Huw: It does impact, but only when I refer directly to television. Not all my works do so, as I don’t
consistently follow a single theme or medium. In this instance, references to television
were inescapable, due to the notoriety of Top Gear. Regardless of project, I loosely aim to
celebrate the undervalued and trivialise the valued, aiming to balance their places in society.
I find talent, reality and magazine programming extremely concerning, as they frequently
encourage us to worship manufactured individuals and shiny objects. Once completing the
videos, I realised they may reflect television’s attitude towards British masculinity. If I don’t
empathise with Top Gear’s lauding of gadgets, flowery shirts and ‘witty’ xenophobia, does
that make me less of a British male? Fortunately, there are some truly innovative, thoughtful
and genuine comedy, documentary and natural history programmes broadcasted, so I
definitely don’t see it as a wholly negative medium, just one to approach with care.

Me: What drew you to start experimenting with video as an output?

Huw: Complete chance, although I’m sure it would have happened anyway. I started experimenting
with appropriated footage, specifically a consumer programme I was interviewed for at
home in Wales. Virgin Atlantic had lost my bag for 28 days and turning to The Ferret was
the only way to force the appropriate compensation. I hated the sound of my own voice
and my inexplicable use of the word ‘and’ five or six times in one sentence. To maintain a
resemblance of sanity whilst editing, to mock my television appearance and to highlight the
fragmentation of time, I chopped up the footage and reorganised it into lists. It opened with
each breath in chronological order and continued with a few other collections. As my editing
improved I started recording my own video, I find it more fulfilling.

Me: I know that currently you are using a number of different mediums within your work, with
one of them being video. It would be interesting to try and understand how video seems to
coincide with the other mediums, and how it currently has an impact on your overall practice ?

Huw: Video art seems to have a higher tendency to become easily inaccessible and self indulgent
than non time-based media. When recording video, I try to shoot in the interest of the subject
and edit in the interest of the footage; hoping to guide rather than force an outcome. Video
commands the viewer, there is a start, end and its experienced face on. It is dictatorial. With
sculpture, the viewer generally chooses the duration and positions they use to experience it.
I feel video should at least value and engage the viewer’s thoughts, as it’s more demanding;
requiring a fixed period of time, concentration and plenty of surrounding space. As with
television, I hope to treat video with care. I try not to look for coincidences with other
mediums, just for mediums to complement each other where possible, why I generally resolve
a project with a series of works. So far, I have avoided video installation. If a video is strong
enough, then it should be able to stand alone.

Me: A number of your videos are very funny, do you see there to be a role for humor in art/
video art ?

Huw: There is definitely a role for humour in an artwork, as long as it’s a genuine rather than a
forced outcome. Drawing an emotional response from the viewer, is the sign of a relationship
forming, a communication exchange. I find a good piece of work lingers well after you’ve
left it. I find some reductive or predictable work too cold to find a connection with. Humour,
if present, is purely a by-product, as I set out to explore a thought or moment I have actually
experienced or witnessed. Something lived is more genuine and therefore more emotive
in content than something purely researched. I’m glad that humour can appear within art,
although its not essential, emotion is. Since finishing Please Don’t Make Me… (2010) I was
concerned that the use of the Stig could be gratuitous, attention seeking and an easy laugh,
so that particular show is also banned from my future work. I have to go, as my brother has
just flicked onto Dave and guess which programme is on? A clear sign for me to finish typing.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Exciting news for,me anyway, I have been able to swing an interview with Huw andrews, http://www.huwandrews.com/

Monday, 8 November 2010

Interview with Alice Bradshaw

I work with a wide range of media and processes involving the manipulation of everyday objects and materials. Mass-produced, anonymous objects are often rendered dysfunctional caricatures of themselves, addressing concepts of purpose and futility. I create or accentuate subtleties, blurring distinctions between the absurd and the mundane, with the notion that the environment the work exists in becomes integral to the work itself.

Brown Paper Bag Box (2008)

Box, made from a brown paper bag, animated.

Static was voted Best in Urban Ideas Award Toronto Urban Film Festival 2009


Me: Can you give us a brief definition of your practice , how you work , where you ideas come from and how you choose to present them , this might seem like a ridiculously open question but it would be interesting to gage how video art relates to your practice currently . ?

Alice: My ideas originate from the object/material and the form/medium the work takes can vary from piece to piece. Sometimes the work is an altered object and sometimes the work across media, beginning with an object and manifesting in another medium.

Sometimes ideas manifest in multiple pieces of work that I would consider part of the same body of work. For example Brown Paper Bag Box began as an exploration into the brown paper bag as object/material and I made a series of experimental works that were like sketches; drawings, sculptures, prints. The video was part of this body of work. I came to the realisation that the video encompassed a lot of my thinking around the subject matter in the one piece of work. I think I realised this when I produced an exhibition for Temporary Art Show in May 2008 where I took over one room with the brown paper bag box experiments and screened the video in another room, making the choice to separate the two parts. I wanted the video to be seen without the supporting work, and for the viewer to then find this kind of back workshop space, housed in a Huddersfield mill.

Again with Static, there was a body work involved in the production of the video. I became obsessive with the process of hole-punching, as is typical with processes employed in my practice. I played around with photos, drawings, sculpture and made a series of scan images, like pages of a book, from a mass of circular remnants from the process (chads). I published one of these images in 2008 in Contents May Vary as Untitled. It was only after I made Brown Paper Bag Box and had learnt some skills in video/animation that I made Static from these images, using the images as frames that created a frame pool that I randomly sequenced.

Me: It would be good if you could explain why you have used the book Rocks Remain in Static and Brown Paper bag in Brown Paper bag .Are the object/materials you use are as important as the manipulation process that you undertake , could it be any object/materials that you use in the films and therefore how have you come to the decisions of using such objects / materials. ?

Alice: The objects and materials I use are fundamental to the work; they are my subject matter. The object/material and the process both important. With Brown Paper Bag Box, the object/material was the starting point and subject. With Static the process (hole-punching) was the starting point and the material (the book) and the form (the video) become integral parts of the work. In theory, video could be an appropriate platform for any work, same as drawing or sculpture, but it depends how the experimental trajectory works out. With Elastic Band (2010) I set out to make a video, but it ended up being a sculpture. The creative process is organic and not restricted by predetermined ideals of what the outcome will become.

Me: What would your definition be of an everyday object . ?

Alice: I would define an everyday object as common place, mundane and overlooked; an object which is so familiar that it becomes invisible even in use. I use everyday objects as they have a consistency in people's perceptions. If not universal perception, one that many people share. An everyday object is a good starting point to begin a dialogue with the viewer, it’s a common ground.

Me: Are the objects / materials in Static and Brown Paper bag , the dysfunctional caricatures of themselves ?.

Alice: There are elements of dysfunctional caricaturing, yes. The book which was destroyed to make Static can no longer be read in the way it was intended, but other “readings” or attempts can be made. I think some objects which have an intended function tend to have a dysfunctional aspect to their character intrinsically. For example, texts are meant to communicate but their function is compromised by language when the reader does not understand the language. Static could be “read” as a comment on the inadequacy of language.

Me: Is the manipulation of the objects a documentation of what you see as there function , whether it be purposeful or futile ?

Alice: Yes I think these manipulations do evidence their function. The trend towards electronic data over hardcopy is pertinent in Static. The question of longevity, in the context of usefulness, of both media is an interesting one. The book “The Rocks Remain” which was used to make Static was a geology text and in the manipulated form of electronic video signals, the title alludes to both the background radiation of white noise static and the static stillness of rocks. I think about existential questions of what will remain when we are gone, when the rocks are gone, when background radiation is gone. I think that futility of existence is a reoccurring concern and one which can be quite humorous.

Me: You say that the environment that work exists in becomes integral to the work itself .”

Do you manipulate the environment around you as much as the objects or do you feel that any environment can become can integral aspect within the films.\

Alice : The way I manipulate the environment is by setting up or choosing a particular exhibition context, rather than directly manipulating the environment itself, by orchestrating a particular context or situation for the viewer to engage with the work.

For Brown Paper Bag Box and Static, the context / process of watching a video is integral to the work, more so than the physical surroundings it is presented in. For example in a film festival and especially on a filmreel, the viewer is usually sat or sometimes stood for a period of time engaged in the moving image on the screen whilst not moving themselves. This relationship between the viewer’s non-movement and the on screen movement is one of interest in relation to the work.

Exhibition contexts can accentuate particular dimensions of the work and experience of the viewer. For example I screened Brown Paper Bag Box in HONK - a travelling exhibition in a white van. The van travelled from one established art institution to the next stopping one step short of being unloaded into the institution building. At the exhibition sites outside the institutions, the back doors of the van were opened and viewers could peer or climb inside and watch the 15 hour long version. That environment became integral to the viewing experience. Another exhibition context was in the goods lift of the Carriageworks in the Electric Press Building in Leeds which as the name suggests was a building where the West Riding Carriage Manufactory was housed. Not only the immediate environment of a goods lift but also the history of the building brought a context which enriched the viewing experience. I think that the context in which a work is presented in cannot be removed from the work, even so far as the white cube context, and that will always be present in engaging with work.

Me: By blurring all distinctions between the everyday / mass produced objects and materials , to the function / purpose and futility of the object materials does this not just become a futile endeavor within itself.?

Alice: I think there is futility inherent in everything we do and my work is no exception. Perhaps I take this idea to extremes where the pointlessness becomes a point. Distinctions, categories and definitions are human constructs which we make to understand and communicate the world around us and I think to play with collective constructs is to revisit things that we casually accept such as consumerism.

Me: How would you define the distinction between the absurd and mundane . ?

Alice: I would define the absurd as ridiculous, irrational, unexpected. The mundane I would define as ordinary, banal and rationalised. So these two characteristics often work as opposite in our perception of the world around us. I think something becomes interesting when it is at the same time mundane and also absurd, or when these two definitions can be applied to the same thing or when two or more aspects of the mundane collide to become absurd.

Me: As an artist/ video maker who do you do find inspiring.?

Alice: Oh, too many to mention! I think pop art and surrealism have been inspirations and from more recent times artists like Ceal Floyer, Angus Fairhurst and Susan Collis to name but a few. I was also lucky to have excellent tutors at university who I could relate to in ideas, materials and form. I also draw inspiration from various other fields of study particularly the sciences and social sciences. Many other artists have inspired me along the way, in one way or another.

Me: And regards to inspiration from other artist / video makers?

Alice: In regards to film, I knew there was work out there that I liked and would find inspiring but found it difficult to find in gallery shows, so set up a film festival with Nancy Porter and this really exemplifies the kind of stuff I like: http://fundadaartistsfilmfestival.blogspot.com/ Reviewing and selecting work for screening is fantastic exposure to film. The whole process is an inspiration in itself.

Links to work and projects :