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.

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