Sunday, 5 June 2011

Interview with Gaia Rosenberg Colorni and Gwilym Sainsbury on their new film 'The Island'

Me: Firstly I would like to say that I love this film. I have watched it many times since you have sent it me. The detail to the narration is great. How long did it take you both to produce?

Gaia/Gwilym: From the time the idea for this video started to its completion, just one week ago, the film took roughly four months to produce. The trip to the island, which constitutes the main content of the film, took place on one afternoon in March 2011. We had heard about the island a month or two before but had waited for the local dinghy enthusiast to take us there as our guide. We found it difficult to shape the initial footage into an informative and coherent form so the idea of using a narrator, impersonated by Thom Green, emerged as a resolution. Discussions began amongst our group regarding the video-essay as genre, and as a consequence we were particularly influenced by Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Space, and the enigmatic figure of Robinson which we somewhat paralleled to the local dinghy enthusiast in the construction of the narrative for The Island. The narrator's script is based on the details we found out about the island, initially from the local dinghy enthusiast and then from our own research into the objects and artefacts encountered on it. We both worked on the script, the voiceover recording, and the video editing process together as is usual in our collaborative projects, which resulted in heated debates and discussions to be developed in our future work.

Me: ‘The Island’ is 17minutes, this changes how and where you can show the film, what are your plans for ‘The Island’?

Gaia/Gwilym: It’s interesting that you ask that, as after finishing the film we were faced with this problem in the last few days. While the film was still unfinished, Gaia exhibited it on a loop in a very small studio space, on a monitor facing a chair, as part of an open studios event; we soon became dissatisfied with the grazing attitude in which the film was being approached by visitors, which is symptomatic of a much greater issue regarding the viewing context of most video art. We considered organizing screenings of The Island, whereby viewers could only watch the film from the beginning, scheduled at particular times during the day, but given our options of possible (institutional) venues to do this, somehow this idea did not sit quite comfortably either.

As for most of our other videos, the film has been uploaded to and is therefore accessible to anyone with an internet connection. We therefore thought of developing a form of distribution which fit with this choice by installing QR code plaques on two benches in the vicinity of the island. We stuck one of these plaques with resin on a council bench facing the island from the shore, and the other on a bench we have recently purchased online and placed on the island ourselves. The QR codes we have introduced act as barcodes that can be read by most smartphones’ digital cameras, automatically directing the smartphone user to the page which hosts The Island film. This form of locative media allows members of the public to discover and watch the film within the island's physical geography as well as through internet browsing, whilst comfortably sitting on a bench. We are quite aware that not everyone (including ourselves) owns a smartphone. This of course complicates questions on both the kind of encounter with the work that is set up through appropriation of contemporary technologies and the kind of different audiences they grant access to; but it is also interesting to note that most teenagers who we have bumped into during later visits to the island itself do own a smartphone. In this context, both The Island as film and the island as place act as a living and lived setting for different stories to occur, celebrating the spirit of the 19th century adventure book.

Me: I do think that because I live in Burley it gave the narrative of ‘The Island’ much more depth. It created an integral juxtaposition knowing that the ‘island’ isn’t an incredibly pleasant place. It made the film more absurd and endearing. What do you feel about this?

Gaia/Gwilym: Our idea of the island, as we initially heard about it, seemed quite utopian and in many ways it lived up to our expectations as an urban arcadia. The various and contrasting uses (from camping and geocaching tournaments to substance abuse) that this island seems to serve to members of the public constitute an intriguing phenomenon within local urban geography. Despite the local dinghy enthusiast's observation that the island was privately owned by National Grid, it seemed in many ways a freer public space than spaces designated by the council as public and therefore regulated as such. Of course the surroundings of the island, as well as its territory itself, are not what one would imagine to be a typically idyllic haven, neither from an urban or a natural point of view. Yet the island’s seclusion, due to lack of designated access (but access to anyone determined enough to cross the weirs, or take their dinghy for a paddle) allows it to function as a more revealing type of public space, outside of council and police regulation and open to anyone to use as they please. We believe the island as a formation creates a particular ‘ambiance’, in Situationist terms, which can be studied, interfered and even expanded on through casual exploration and play.

Me: How true is the plot of ‘The Island’? Did you really get talking to a dingy enthusiast at a film screening in a squat? Does the dingy enthusiast really go exploring the island on himself?

Gaia/Gwilym: The narration is based on what the local dinghy enthusiast told us about the island as our guide. All the information provided in the film can be considered as factual: the local dinghy enthusiast does indeed exist, we first met him at a film screening in a squat house, etc. However these ‘facts’ are presented as so ambiguous, even extraordinary despite the mundane context in which they manifest themselves, that the film obviously, and necessarily, leaves the viewer questioning the degree of their truthfulness.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Videos from Testspace Leeds - Pollyanna - Haze

Joanna Aldoori - Running the tap


Calum Paterson - N-gate


Jamie Picton


Abi Mitchell - Bee keeper


Monday, 2 May 2011

Open call for video instillation. On the 3oth of May project Video and the Artist will be taking over Testspace Leeds in an attempt to consider video arts " higher tendency to become easily inaccessible and self indulgent than non time based media."

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Interview with Nicola Hafter

After looking at the Woolgathers impressive website for their art prize which opens on Friday the 6th of May, at Dyson chambers Briggate Leeds. There has been a lot of talk about Woolgathers intresting approch to the artprize, but mabey less about the artists that are exhibiting. Whist looking at the website, I found myself slightly confused by the videos that the shortlisted artists have made in response to Woolagthers question of how do they sustain their practice and a creative lifestyle. After contemplating why, I think it is becasue a few of the videos feel as if they are the artworks within themselves; if they was out of the context of the website, especially Michael Burrells video of cooking microvwave popcorn. After I decided to get in contact with shortlisted artist Nikki Hafter, about her other video art, but in the end we felt that it would be more intresting to talk about the videos made for the website and artprize and Nikkis submission to Woolgather.

Me:What I find incredibly interesting about the videos the shortlisted artists have made, are that out of the context of the website certain videos such as Michael Burrell’s could be perceived to be video art within themselves, which can make the videos confusing as a whole, and raises questions about how video is used as documentation. What are your feelings on this?

Well I know that when I received the letter from Woolgather, which asked everyone to make a video in response to specific questions, I was keen not to make something too ‘obvious’. I didn’t want to answer the questions in a straightforward way, because I saw the video as an opportunity for me to communicate something about myself as an artist to the viewing public, and so for me it was about finding a balance between answering the questions, and communicating other things as well. And I wanted to make sure that my video was engaging, not just me sitting in a chair talking about my practice… That’s not interesting for me to make so I don’t see why it would be interesting for anyone else to watch! My video is a play on that kind of ‘talking to the camera’ scenario, a kind of reinvention or a reversal of it. I was behind the camera, not in front of it, but the video still provides my answers to the questions, just using other people’s voices.

So, I would say that it’s in the videos that have attempted to give a less straightforward answer that the line starts to get blurred between an informative video and an artwork. For example, the narration of Bess Martin’s is in the form of a poem, and Joe Frost’s is a video of an actual performance with him describing his practice added as a voiceover. I think Burrell’s is interesting because it’s the furthest point on the scale, it provides absolutely no information whatsoever [apart from possibly that he might like microwave popcorn].

Me:It seems that Woolgather have asked you to use video because it is accessible to all, in terms of ‘understanding’, they have left no place for long blurbs and confusing tag lines. “Its not Avant-garde its Avant-give”.

Although by choosing a specific medium for you guys to represent yourselves do you think that it limited you response to there question? Especially to those who haven’t used film in the past. Being as the art prize is going to be judged by the public.

Woolgather definitely want to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, and have said they are keen to attract the wider public rather than just the regulars on the Leeds art scene. I think the choice of video is partly to do with the reduced popularity of written text – artist manifestos seem to have gone out of fashion – and partly to do with the appeal of video as a medium that everyone encounters every day. Video also has far more association with entertainment, with pleasure, than text does, particular amongst younger audiences, so that definitely makes it more appealing.

It’s probably true that I, as an artist who often uses video, interpreted the task as one in which I could be quite playful because I knew what options were available for me to play with, and I’m quite confident about filming and editing my own material. Whereas others might have chosen to approach the question in a way that wouldn’t need editing, because they don’t know how. I recorded my footage with the intent to cut it all up anyway, so I didn’t direct what anyone would say or worry too much about how it looked, because that wasn’t the focus of the video.

Then again, being creative is often about working with the constraints of the practical skills and resources that you have access to. And I think often my best work comes from a limit which makes me reassess what I’m trying to do and why. Solving the problem of what is and isn’t possible for you to do can result in a more creative outcome that’s actually more rewarding than just carrying out an idea that’s easy with your existing skills. So I don’t think its really an excuse for make a video that isn’t engaging.

Me:You have said to me in the past that you feel your video reflects the ideas you are currently working with within your practice; would you present the film you have made as an artwork in juxtaposition to the art prize?

I don’t know if I would present it as an artwork, because it wasn’t really intended as one. Then again, I’m not comfortable with saying that the artist is in control of whether something is an artwork or not, I think how something is perceived by an audience is more important. And obviously you’ve said that Burrell’s video seems to you to resemble an artwork, even though we both made films for the same purpose and under the same instructions, so by that token all the video responses can be said to be artworks.

The work that’s shortlisted for the prize, ‘The Drawing Game’, is an interactive work that uses chance and rules to make a drawing. And for my video I did the same thing, I made a rule - that I would ask everyone the same questions - and left the rest to chance, knowing that I could edit anyone’s responses into something I agreed with. And that’s something that really interests me, seeing what chance gives you and going with it. I tried to embrace the particular words that people chose and the things they said that surprised me, the things that made me laugh. Those things definitely added to the video, and they are there to some extent in ‘The Drawing Game’ as a participatory work, the freedom for people to be themselves and play how they want to play, whether they choose to obey the rules or break them, to be serious or silly. So I would definitely say the game and the video are partner works to some degree, though I’m not sure if I would specify whether either of them is an artwork or not.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Interview with Hondartza Fraga

Hondartza Frage is a visual artist from Spain. Fraga moved over to Yorkshire to study an MA in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University and now works in Bloc studios Sheffield. Fraga primerliy works with video, photography, drawing, and sometimes from found objects and images.During March 2011, Fraga was chosen as artist of the month at Axis, by invited selector Dominic Mason.

I was fortunate to come across Fragas Video D is for Distance at an artist talk. The ambiguity of the videos structure and form, is incredibly interesting and thought provoking.She describes the work:

A ship travels. I follow its path across the open ocean through a little window in my computer screen. It updates every minute. I collect minutes. But I am not there. I am only here. One day of this journey, one day the sea moving fast below.

But a journey that goes to where it never arrives, and comes from where it never parted. It is the real sea. It was real time. Distance is distorted, compressed and negated. The little window makes me a promise of immediacy, of omnipresence…of control. But the promise is always inconsistent. Always unfulfilling.

I emailed Hondartza with a few questions about D is for Distance

Me: Your video D is for distance reminds me of the term life is always round. Within that I mean that the ideal that we will never know where the ship departed and where the ship will arrive, makes the ships journey futile and pointless, and “unfulfilling”. The “unfulfilling” nature of the ships journey, initially reminded me of the ways in which experimental film, structural film will provide the viewer with a narrative that seems to ‘go nowhere’ and camera shots that seem provide ‘nothing of importance’. Your video is only short although did you ever consider making the duration a lot longer, and the video screened on itself. The only reason that I ask this is because the angst that a longer duration could cause the viewer, could further question the notions of the distorted, immediacy and fulfillment and un-fulfillment. What are your thoughts on this?

Hondartza: The work is to be shown as a loop in an exhibition, so there would be no beginning or end. The ship is constantly repeating the same day over and over again. But with only ocean as reference the journey could also be understood as a procession of endless identical days, all following one another without conclusion. "Unfulfilling'' is precisely the word I would use to describe the experience of looking at all these Webcams on the internet, there is a implicit association between 'seeing' and 'being' when one is sitting in front of a computer with the power to click and see potentially anywhere in the world instantly. As viewers looking at this tiny image in our computer screens, we don't actually go anywhere; we can only inhabit the places with our sight and imagination. And in a way, the video showing a journey trapped in a loop is as unmoving as we are looking at it. The video both evokes and negates the very idea of travel.

Me: The video also reminds me of Marshal McLuhan’s, theories of the medium being the message, and his prediction of the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. McLuhan insight was that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. It would be really interesting if you could give more of an explanation of how the footage you collected and the characteristics of the Internet, and its global vision of world, interlink with the notion of the distorted and immediacy?

Hondartza: I am interested in spaces that are only accessible to the observer through sight and fantasy (like the video I made with night vision in a dollhouse: Vision) and how different technologies can affect the way we interpret that space. In D is for Distance is important that the work has been constructed from Webcam images online, available to anyone, to emphasize how this global vision transforms the meaning of distance. How Webcams are potentially compressing and distorting our relation with the world. The Internet makes the whole world accessible with the click of a button, but the reality of these places, the implications of what a real journey may entail are overlooked. The viewer is travelling only with his/her mind, physical space and the body are rejected, or at best considered irrelevant. These are the concepts I am questioning in these works.

Me: Even though you collected the footage from the internet have you ever represented the work on different platforms on the internet, to reinforce concepts behind the video. (This might be totally irrelevant), just thoughts I had about the work.

Hondartza: D is for Distance was originally produced for ‘Oxhouse’ project by artist Clare Adams. ‘Oxhouse’ was an online alphabet made for and about the digital native. A digital native is a person for whom digital technologies already exist when they are born, and hence has or will grow up with digital technology such as the internet, mobile phones, social networking sites etc. The project showcased works from 26 diverse artists from all over the world who responded to the following:
 What are and will be the implications of the digital world on our digital natives?
 What gift would you give to the digital native about to be born into our digital world?

Each artist proposed a piece of work for a letter of the alphabet and then chose a word to represent the letter and made a piece of work in response with a message or definition for the digital native (the project is no longer online but here is some information:

So the work first platform was the same medium from which it had been produced. But it was also important to me to see how it would work in a different context. As a loop on a monitor in a gallery the work can also be in direct dialogue with my other works that relate to the same ideas (like the work Never Arrived, Never Parted, which explore this idea of the no-journey using a model ship’s shadow).

You can view the video here:

Friday, 14 January 2011

Interview with Alice Lea

Me: You seem to use low tec camera equipment in your films , do you think buy using such equipment there is any implication upon the viewer? And is this integral for your work/practice.?

Alice: The first time I used a video camera, I fainted, fell forward onto it and broke it, salvaging only the tape that contained footage of me doing so. I didn't use another camera for a while after, when I borrowed a very large and clunky one made in the late 1980s, the material captured I edited in Windows Movie Maker. The fuzzy and unbalanced frames began to work in favour of the meaning I was trying to create, leaving things a bit less clear and more implicit. This allows, I feel, the viewer to fill in the gaps themselves and to freely (albeit within a constructed framework) associate the images to form their own understanding of the video.

Me: You say that within your practice that you are concerned,

“with the relationship of order and disorder and creating via destruction, the work pushes the material to breaking point; and if beyond, more the better. Through found, un-traditional and problematic materials, the work endeavors for armature in its various forms and meanings, allowing video to be the “cast in bronze.”

It seems that the notion of the “the video being cast in bronze” could be integral to how your work/videoart could be ‘understood’, is this true?

Alice: Both video and sculpture have seemed the most appropriate for what I’ve attempted to say or to discuss in my work, and I have shown them together and separately depending on the theme. From this body of work that the quote is related, the deconstruction or construction of sculpture are what I found to be subjects for video. This is where the two mediums meet and are reliant upon one another, which was important for me as the maker and was a turning point for how I made two aspects of my practice cohesive. In terms of the material, the sculptures are raw and unrefined but what finishes them (destructively and productively) is how they are treated for the purpose of a recording. I aimed for this to be an underlying consideration of the work but it is not integral to how it is understood, rather the action or content in the video is what I hope to be pondered by the audience.

Me: As for Alice and Huw within your practice you seem to use a number of different mediums . What I have found interesting so far from interviewing Alice and Huw was the ways in which they went about presenting there video art against their other work. Huw said that to this point he had never used his videos in instillation as he claimed, “if a video is strong enough, it should be able to stand alone”. Where is your stance on this situation, have you or would you use your work in video installation or would you prefer you videos to be played separately? There is obviously an implication upon the viewer if the work is presented in either way, although which way do you feel suits your practice best?

Alice: I have made some videos for the purpose of installation and in combination with other work, whilst others are to be seen individually and unconnectedly. Previously I have made the mistake of overdoing a piece by superimposing a projection upon sculpture, weakening the overall impact, when the projection was enough in its own right. So there are some video works which should stand alone, and others that are part of a bigger piece- each is valid. A video shouldn’t be used as aesthetic jewellery, although this applies for any medium, if something is not working then it won’t be covered up.

Me: Within the interview with Huw Andrews I feel he arose quite a important question about the ‘understanding’ of video art within a space.

“ 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 viewers thoughts, as its more demanding; requiring a fixed period of time, concentration and plenty of surrounding space”.

I found what Huw has said here is extremely interesting and quite true. Knowing that you have also made a lot of sculpture in the past, do you think that your video art is a lot more demanding upon the viewer than any of your other works?

Alice:The curation of artwork affects how the viewer will respond to it, to how they connect with it, combined with their own tastes and interests as well. Specifically to video, there isn’t one way to describe how it can be engaged with due to the varying degrees of attention each style and montage demands; from the subliminal to Sky News for instance. Whether the video has music or dialogue, and how it is heard can also have an effect on the viewer. For example, headphones would allow the piece to be experienced by one or two individuals at a time, and requires some participation to use the equipment therefore, demanding more. Whereas hidden speakers transmitting the audio may compel only passive engagement. In contrast to video, I think an object on a white plinth can be dictatorial. Because of the roughness and unfamiliar appearances of some sculpture I have made, I imagine these could demand more from the viewer than some of my videos. So it really depends on each art piece and how it is presented, its medium does not predetermine its perception. In any case, I think a demanding artwork is a good thing and this is something to aim for when making and displaying.