Kinetic installations [bringing the 2D moment to life.]
A lot of my work looks at repetitive statements, whereby I find a specific slice of time (someone floating in mid-air, someone lifting a weight) and recreate that moment by manipulating it, slowing it down, repeating it and generally warping its structure. This manipulation has previously been most accessible (and successful) in video formats. What I have found with my recent work (specifically marathon runners struggling with a run) is that I am able to recapture these 'monumental moments' in a 2D kinetic form (rather than a digital form). I am bringing my humorous observations of human kind out of the digital world and into the physical world. I am taking a non moment and turning it into a moment.
I first had the idea for 'Jog on' when I watched the London Marathon on the television this summer and saw the start of the race. On the screen all I could see was a sea of bobbing heads, as though the bodies weren't even attached, moving up and down as they all jogged in the same direction. I found the whole experience really comical and my instinct was to somehow reenact it with motors. The piece is quite simple really; one AV motor attached to a welded pulley mechanism pulling these cardboard heads up and down through fish hooks. My previous video editing techniques (cropping, layering, repeating, reversing) are visible in the moving sculpture. With the videos I am taking moving image and manipulating it but here I have taken something flat and static (the cardboard heads) and made them seem alive with a motor. The viewer has to imagine the rest of the body but this simulation of human movement (jogging) is funny and feels closer to the viewer than the video work. It is existing in the social space of the gallery rather than only existing on a screen.
'What's the big idea?' at the Crypt gallery also featured kinetic installation; without the endless spinning of the battery powered disco motor the heads would have been simply hanging below a light bulb looking up. This movement was effective in an otherwise static and eerie space. Now the heads seemed like they were scrambling over one another to reach the light (light of God? light of a computer screen? a eureka moment?) in this constant relentless spinning and searching for something enlightening. When you take an impossible idea and somehow make it work in the real world and seem alive the possibilities and interpretations are endless. Although working with video still allows me to play with the impossible, I am finding this journey out of the digital world and into kinetic installations really exciting and refreshing.
[Critical Analysis] Arthur Jafa - 'Love is the message, the message is death' - The Vinyl Factory - Store Studios, London
Arthur Jafa's 'Love is the Message, the Message is Death' is a 7 minute video, which I viewed on the roof of the Store Studios, that features a choreographed collection of poignant 'slices of time.' Jaffa's video piece attempts to provide a contemporary revisualisation of black American history. It converges found footage that traces African-American identity through an array of contemporary imagery set to Kanye West’s gospel-inspired hip-hop track, ‘Ultralight Beam’. From footage of civil rights leaders to helicopter views of the LA riots, from rappers to dancers to sports stars the piece sent me teetering through humour, horror, disgust, joy, pride and guilt. The video remained at an intense pitch throughout, which kept my gut, as the viewer, tight and permanently prepared for a blow. This was an interesting revelation when viewing video art because I wasn't being a allowed a minute to collect my thoughts, this in turn kept me emotionally bound to what was in front of me.
When talking about his work Jafa refers to the agony and ecstasy of life, which links strongly to my video piece, 'PRIMAL SCREAM'. He talks about the moment when you throw a basketball and it stops going up in the arc motion but it hasn't yet started to come down the other side - it's caught in the apex - in that space of suspension. In this space, he says "you can disentangle something that's incredibly beautiful and something thats incredibly painful, something majestic and miserable (blackness.)" The video is suspending you in a certain place so that you are forced to address what's in front of you and reflect upon the horror of it. As a white person viewing it I felt a certain sense of guilt, there's no benevolent whiteness in the film and this is foreign territory to most of the viewing public. This makes the piece very important, poignant and effective.
Jafa introduced me to this new term 'apex.' Apex definition : the top or highest part of something, especially one forming a point, the highest point of achievement, a climax. This is interesting to keep in mind when considering the installation of the piece. The video was in fact being viewed on an apex (the roof of the building) inside a tent, "inspired by revival tents, a custom from the southern United State where Christian worshipers gathered in a marquee erected specifically for meetings, healing missions, church rallies or simply to hear a preacher speak." This form of installation feeds into this idea of Relational Aesthetics (referred to in another segment of the Arc), Jafa has not only provided the preacher (the video) but he has allowed you to sit (comfortably) amongst an extremely historically loaded landscape. What you are viewing is emotional, full of pride but wracked with heartache, its defiant and independent but also makes you face the potentially evil underbelly of humankind. Although by entering this church setting I was emerged in a sense of hope (these tents aimed to revive hope and healing), after watching this video I was left in tears. I believe that this is what art should be; powerful, emotional and sometimes painful (like life).
A lot of my video work incorporates appropriated footage. This term my video work 'WSM' took footage from old episodes of 'World's Strongest Man..' I focused only on the moment when the men were lifting, zoomed in on their faces and flipped and repeated the footage until they were permanently locked in an endless lifting motion. For 'Boxing Stare Downs' I appropriated footage from old boxing matches, specifically the moment before the fight where the two fighters 'stare down' one another. I then overplayed this appropriated footage with old love songs. From Minnie Ripperton's 'Loving you' to The Shirelles' 'Will you still love me tomorrow?' these soundtracks transform the intense encounter into a much softer and more vulnerable exchange. Previous video works ('Grounded' and 'PRIMAL SCREAM') have incorporated a variety of YouTube clips, movie scenes, television show clips and sitcom sketches in order to question the fast-paced, visually stimulating, technology-based world in which we live. This appropriation finds itself amongst a specific slice of the art world; artists including Christian Marclay, Paul Pfeiffer, Candice Breitz, Bruce Conner, Seth Price and Douglas Gordon all use the familiar as a mechanism to create the unfamiliar (although all have been known to incorporate their own footage.) So perhaps it is an area that is hard to push forward in? With video art currently saturating the art world it is becoming harder and harder to challenge viewers within this field, specifically when this form of editing is extremely accessible. It is now possible to shoot, edit and export footage on an iPhone; entire movies have now been shot on an iPhone (movies including Tangerine and Searching for Sugarman) and any owner of the phone is able to shoot, edit and export the footage. Everyone is a video artist. With this accessibility it becomes harder to differentiate between video art and a clever YouTube compilation made for pure entertainment.
Recently my work has started to approach found footage differently and as the kinetic sculptures have developed my videos have taken on a different form. It's as though I have taken the digital material and transformed them into real-life moving installations. The appropriated imagery is still present (I have found images of runners/people looking up into the light online and used these heads) but the setting is less familiar. Bringing my videos into the real world perhaps creates a more invasive and intimate encounter with the viewer and so has more impact than the video work. Something similar is happening with the work below ['Sharapova vs Williams'], again I am still using found footage (audio from their match) but by condensing it and presenting it within something physical (a tennis ball) a more intense and surreal interpretation is encouraged. I would like to now start collecting my own footage and relying less on the found footage. For example with the marathon heads I could go to a race and take pictures myself, I could record footage at boxing matches, bodybuilding competitions and tennis matches. I was starting to do this with the Armchair series last term where I was collecting interviews with the elderly and I found quite a lot of pleasure in this. I am definitely open to collecting my own material in future projects.
A lot of my work comes back to monumental moments of heightened emotion (good or bad.) In my video piece 'PRIMAL SCREAM', I compiled personal and appropriated footage in an endless search for the ultimate moment of elation.
In 'GROUNDED' figures float endlessly in the air, making human flight temporarily plausible. This term in 'WSM' I am trapping weightlifters in an endless lifting cycle, this repeated moment of a body and mind being visibly pushed to its limit is uncomfortable (and humorous) viewing. In 'Jog on' [in progress] I have appropriated human faces from amateur runners clearly in a moment of physical discomfort whilst running a distance. In the tennis ball series [in progress] I have taken audio footage from a match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova and edited out all other noise leaving only the moment when the ball hits the racket and the screams of the two women. In ' What's the big idea?' I have used images of faces looking up into a light and spun them in an endless moment of contemplation. In 'Boxing Stare Downs' rather than looking at the match itself I have concentrated on the moment just before the fight when they are looking intensely into one another's eyes.
A lot of these moments, specifically in relation to sport, involve humans experiencing heightened emotions by moving to the outermost limits of their beings. Boxers in the ring ease out of sanity's consciousness and into another. Like an immortal super-hero they can be knocked down by an opponent and still come out victorious. A weightlifter can lift weights unimaginable to most humans and a man in a Red Bull suit can jump from space (seen in 'PRIMAL SCREAM'). These monumental moments are addictive for a film-maker like me. Human kind will never fail to intrigue me. Why is that people choose to reach these moments at the risk of death? Does it make them feel alive? What does finishing a marathon feel like? It seems that as a society we are obsessed with this idea of the extreme. Amongst a fast-paced and visually stimulated world we are under pressure to feel happiness all the time. These monumental moments which I continue to appropriate into my work are often allowing me to understand my own place in the world.
I am at the very early stages of playing with a new idea looking at football fans' euphoric reactions to their teams scoring a goal. To the left you can see one from the series [still in development], it's called 'Chelsea fan almost strangles himself in a moment of euphoria'.
One piece that I continue to go back to (specifically in relation to monumental moments) is Mark Leckey's 'Fiorucci Made me Hardcore'. The video captures British nightlife, found footage (referred to above) is spliced together with a collage of ambient sound, rave tracks and crowd noises. Obvious themes concerning the romanticism of nostalgia are undeniably questioned, but for me the piece represents the pure and simple transcendent joy in dancing. That out of body experience I was previously talking about in the boxing ring can be found on the dance floor (for me anyway.) It's a simple yet poignant unification of a frenzied, youthful and euphoric ritual.
'Sharapova vs Williams'
This piece is a tennis ball. Inside the tennis ball is a tiny (but loud) speaker playing the sound piece. For the sound piece I went through the entire audio of a tennis match between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams in 2016 and edited out all sounds excluding the ball hitting the racket and the two women screaming. Other elements of sound can be detected including the squeaks from the women's trainers as they change direction in the game and the noise of the crowd reacting to the game. Both women are infamous for their exaggerated and sometimes intimidating screams when playing so you can imagine this match in 2016 was quite a spectacle. The 'slice of time' here is the moment the ball hits the racket but the surrounding sounds allow the viewer to imagine the rest.
The fact that the speaker is hidden within a tennis ball is a big hint to the viewer with regards to the source of the sound material but it would be interesting to investigate whether the sound would be as easily identifiable without it. I like the simplicity of the piece, the quality of the sound means that the whole atmosphere of the court can be emitted from this tiny ball. The piece itself plays with the senses; the viewer can hear the movement of the ball and feet and screams and yet it sits there completely still. Again, I am attempting to take something very ordinary and familiar and warp it slightly in order to highlight the ridiculousness of the scenario. These two women are letting out guttural, animalistic screams as they hit the ball, you can occasionally hear the crowds laughter at quite a primeval display of strength and intimidation.
Similarly to the 'Boxing Stare Downs' series I am looking at the relationship between two contenders and how this can create quite an intimate and frightening encounter. The difference here is that I am looking at women. In a lot of my previous work, specifically within the sporting domain, a lot of the subjects have been men. The weight-lifters, the boxers, the runners, the old Irish folk singers; with such male-based subjects a lot of the interpretations would skirt over to masculinity. Now this work specifically looks at two women (although in the future I could see a series of matches from either sex being interpreted) at the top of their game. The tension builds as the two women exchange shots, gain points and try and scream louder than one another. The screams represent some sort of physical and mental release in the game, is it pain or is it pleasure?