Friday, 25 November 2011

Little White Lies Review: An African Election

(Originally published on Little White Lies)

Barely distinguishable political parties, colourful characters, dodgy rhetoric, corruption and fake smiles… It must be election time again. Although this might sound like a familiar scenario, any comparisons with British or US politics are purely coincidental. This is the lead up to the 2008 Ghanaian democratic elections, during which filmmaker siblings Jarreth and Kevin Merz goes behind the scenes to document the political to-ing and fro-ing of the leading parties and the battle for domination that ensues.

A solidly structured approach to the very slippery subject of democracy, An African Election relies on the natural build up of tension and anticipation in the lead up to the electoral contest. The New People’s Party have been in office for eight years, and the National Democratic Congress, the more left-leaning opposition, want to knock them off their perch.

On the streets and in the workplace, Ghanaians just want more jobs, greater access to healthcare and education, and increased food production. Each party is willing to promise whatever it takes to convince the population to put the X next to them on the ballot paper.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Murder Disco! at Pop-Up Circus, Sunday 27 November

My video installation Murder Disco! will be screening as part of Pop-Up Circus in Hackney on Sunday 27th November. See their website for a full list of screenings, performances and art.

Monday, 21 November 2011

ArtSlant Review: Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery

(Originally published on ArtSlant)

Digital photography has gifted us the monkeys and typewriters theory in action: with no printing costs we can snap away and fluke ourselves a beautifully constructed shot. But pinpointing exactly what makes a magical photo and reproducing this by design not chance is a different matter, especially when it comes to portraits.

When a photographic portrait works it’s incredibly powerful and nuanced; in a fraction of a second the photographer distills something of their complex subject. A truly affecting portrait must be intimate but simultaneously metaphorical, detailed but still mysterious, speaking of the personal as well as the universal.

So on what basis do the judges for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize whittle-down thousands of entries? Every year the selection throws up a host of contradictory views on whether the entries are brilliant or in fact a monkey with a camera could have done as well, which makes it an exhibition well worth seeing.

ArtSlant Review: Jennifer West, Heavy Metals : Iron and Zinc at Vilma Gold

(Originally published on ArtSlant)

There’s a long tradition of cameraless filmmaking that takes in the likes of Man Ray Norman McLaren and Stan Brakhage, so LA based video artist Jennifer West is in good company. Whether her male counterparts applied substances to the celluloid surface via headbanging remains fairly doubtful, but this performative approach manipulating celluloid film is partly what sets West apart.

The headbanging in question formed part of the making of her two Heavy Metal Sharks Calming films, inspired by an article by an Australian shark breeder who discovered that playing heavy metal music to Great Whites actually calmed them down. West took footage of the movie Jaws and literally applied heavy metal to it in the form of black dye. The performance came about as the means of application, for which West and another flung the dye from their hair onto the surface by headbanging along to heavy metal music.

A behind-the-scenes documentary would have been great, but there’s not hint at the mode of production in the work itself. What results is a beautifully distorted version of Jaws in which scenes are still recognizable but colours play across the screen and imbue the shark-based thriller with a rich abstract overlay.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Photos: Jennifer West at Vilma Gold

Some images I took at the Jennifer West show at Vilma Gold. West transforms the surface of celluloid film using different substances and physical processes to create new imagery or adapt existing footage into new projected works. Her works undergo a transformation from the tangible, solid object into dancing, intangible light. Of course, taking a photo of them transforms them once more, but it's a Sunday and I'm more interested in looking at the images than theorizing them...

Monday, 14 November 2011

See Film Differently Interview: Rebecca Hall for The Awakening

I was the interviewer for this one rather than the filmmaker, but I got to meet the lovely Rebecca Hall to talk about her part in The Awakening for See Film Differently.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Saatchi Magazine Interview: Hayley Lock

Photo by Laura Bushell

 (Originally published on Saatchi Online Magazine)

Hayley Lock’s works are populated by a cast of intriguing characters whose visual form and biographical history have been absorbed, mulled over and reformulated by the artist as part of her ongoing game of truth versus illusion. Like a writer with series of novels in the pipeline,
there is a melting pot of stories, ideas, snippets of overheard conversation and a multitude of characters that bubbles away in the background, only to be drawn upon when the time is right. Unusually, the act of writing and research is key to Lock’s artistic practice, which so far has encompassed painting, drawing, collage, sound, video andsculpture as a means of articulation of its text based roots. This year, Lock’s work has been shown around the UK as part of Transition
Gallery’s The Count of Monte Cristo and she has a collaborative project, (Now that would be) Telling, creating site specific works for five National Trust stately homes together with five writers. She sat downwith Laura Bushell to begin to unravel the complex tale of her work itself…

Photo by Laura Bushell

Could you describe where you’re at with your practice now?

I’m currently exploring the idea of duality and reflection. This is
why I’m really interested in fact and fiction, so I’m exploring those
ideas of subverting truth… what’s truth and what isn’t truth? Lots of
the projects I’m working on at the moment are about me looking at and researching things on the surface and then trying to make up new histories, which may or may not be true, beneath that surface. It’s quite layered my work, quite complex.
With (Now that would be) Telling I’m actually quite privileged to work with writers and we’re coming up with new ways of working, which is really interesting. I’m trying out new things, seeing if it’s successful or not, trying to measure that. I’m really interested in portraiture and where these people may or may not have come from, truth, rumour, playing with rumour.

Narrative plays a strong role in your work, whether its historical or fictional, or somewhere in the grey area between.

The blur of the edges is what I like. Something will for some reason scream at me and interest me and I’ll end up twisting and turning it and then putting it back into its original setting. It’s about exploring
both the visual and the written word too, I’m working with text a lot. I’m also really interested in conversation so I’ll be out and about somewhere and if I hear a particularly interesting statement or someone says something silly I tend to use that as titles for work. That gets fed back in.

What I’m doing within my work is developing what I see as a really big concept or story, a big body of work. When I’m making work for difference places or something I’ve instigated, it’s all going into the melting pot. So these portraits that I’m exploring are all part of a bigger story and as I’m making them I’m talking to them, having a conversation, and writing these things down. Then that goes back into the story again to be mixed around and explored as and when is relevant.

So you have a big cast to choose form for your work?

Yes, there is a big cast, it’s quite theatrical. I think film is where my work needs to go next, to try those ideas in some kind of moving imagery of some description.

Do you come from a theatre or writing background?

No. I’ve always made work, drawn and fiddled around since I was quite young, that classic thing. I love painting and collage but I don’t stick with them, I’m constantly trying out new working ways. It twists and turns all the time and I don’t think I’m in control of it, which I quite enjoy. I feel like I’m steering it and I don’t know what the end is going to be, I don’t know even if there is an end.

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