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 2009http://www.alicebradshaw.co.uk/
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 :