Castlefield Gallery, Manchester
Thursday, May 10, 2007 (18:00 - 20:00)
: A, A2
This video here on the upper level was shot just before the preview of the exhibition. I gave a guided tour for the staff here and the subtitles are a transcript from my introduction to the exhibition. You may get an idea of the exhibition from what you read there, but also it goes off at tangents and turns into more of a play with words and images. It’s to do with the materiality of the space, the gallery architecture, an analysis of the materials and structures that support and conduct the making and presentation of art.
: I should say something about how the exhibition came about. I’ve been coming to the gallery for the last 6 or 7 months, between exhibitions during the changeover phase when the panelling and construction is going on and you still see artworks in the space. Some of them are packed, some unpacked. Some are partly constructed and partly realised. I quite like this as a kind of moving image, partly formed images available for me to study.
What I’ve tried to do in this exhibition is emulate some of the structures that were in previous exhibitions and make a collage of the different artefacts that formed part of other people’s works.
For example, this is a costume by Arthur Neve, which forms part of his video and performance entitled The Beast. It was originally presented as part of the exhibition Making Love To my Ego and it was situated here. I never actually saw the exhibition, I just saw the costume, and the space was in disarray. This was one of the last artworks to be taken down from the show. I captured it on video and when I eventually came round to bring my exhibition together I thought it would be interesting to bring this artwork back and present it in a similar disorderly environment to when I found it, in a kind of half made space.
I use throwing as a way of analysing materials, looking at my relationship to my environment and my position in time and space. On one hand I am interested in what I am looking at and on the other questioning what I am looking with and thinking about the methods by which images come about.
A lot of the materials in the gallery are brought into the space. I asked members of staff to bring articles of clothing in, things for me to play with and explore the environment with.
: Would you say that everything in the space is part of the show, regardless of whether its here by design, and by your arrangement? For example these cases here, are they are as much part of the show as everything else?
: I guess the real question is: is there any kind of hierarchy of material?
: Yes. There is. It’s a question of finding a balance between what I want and what there is. The images come about, partly through desire and intention and partly by accident.
: A poltergeist?
: I think that’s an interesting point actually. If you look around, for example, there’s a video down there with office chairs being moved and things being thrown around - I did have a sense of it being a kind of ghostly presence.
There’s an interesting relationship to your work and how you are treating the gallery as a space where other things have happened where there have been other presences. Also in a way your work quotes quite a lot from other art movements and other artists. So there are these ‘ghostly’ presences. I think it’s quite an interesting thing that comes across from your work.
In my film work this involves single frame film-making and a study of alternating light and dark patterns. There are film-makers like Tony Conrad, and Paul Sharits, connected to the Fluxus movement, who composed films frame-by-frame, alternating transparent light and opaque dark frames, to create a stroboscopic light which the viewer sees as colour. Colours produced by the body responding to the frequencies of light and dark.
A lot of my early films are abstract and explore the structure of film, the division of time in single frame units, alternating patterns of light and dark and the kind of afterimages produced by the body on the retina. The images for me are like body images, signs of the body and its limits. I’m interested in how images produced by the body, invade, or intervene in subsequent experiences of light and time, and space.
I’m not sure if you quite understand what I mean by an afterimage. If you were to stare out of a window, into daylight, and then quickly blink, or turn towards a dark space, you might carry an image of what is outside, into that space as an afterimage. A lot of my work is to do with this movement and migration of visual and sonic artefacts from one environment into another. It’s the result of a mental and physiological process. These films, videos, are partly to do with this transmission. The image that you see is a combination of projected and reflected light.
: You were talking about the afterimage, the body reacting mentally to an image, and you are also getting directly physically involved with your environment. So at what stage did that happen, when did you actually think “I’m going to physically change my environment by throwing things or by moving things around”?
: Well, you change your environment, whether you intend to or not. You are actively constructing it in many ways by just being here. When you look at things you are giving time to light and the more you look at something the more value you assign to it.
My abstract filmmaking involved the use of an optical printer: a film camera that’s used to re-film film. Conventionally it’s used for special effects, but in experimental filmmaking it’s used quite a lot for reproducing hand-painted film onto negative. I used it for reorganising images in time and illuminated the surface of paint using a [hand-held] light. So I had to lean in front of the lens and manipulate things in front of the camera. Holding the camera, putting myself in front of it, organising things in real-time, I started to physically connect with what I was looking at and gradually one thing led to another.
Thats how my work develops. I don’t really have a plan. I just respond to things. Ideas are not set out in stone. I don’t just execute them. Ideas are always in progress. They are always subject to change.
: In my experience, as a painter I will do something and respond to it and I don’t necessarily have a set idea, I’m very much responding visually and emotionally to what I’m doing. Do you think your methods stem from your background as a painter Riccardo?
I should point out that the panels here were previously used in the exhibition ‘Khusra: Stains and Stensils’. Originally they were spread out and I decided to compress them and put them there and I left this pretty much as it was. I thought it was quite an interesting space to walk through, but then I realised that some people might not be able to pass through there. So now I just see it as an aperture. When you are in the space you discover one thing is framing another.
: No, it just landed this way. I didn’t intend to make a messy space. I’m interested in noise and dirt, I’m interested in the minutia.
When I was a student, I would do drawings, very small things, which would lead to very big installations and projections, working and behaving with minimal energy or resources, but thinking on a large scale.
My painted films were made up of thousands of paintings and the frames, the paintings, are the size of a small fingernail. I became very aware of detail and time. Using a frame-by-frame process you become very sensitive to the passing of time, aware of every frame that passes in front of your eyes. That’s what interests me, the grain of time passing, the information that you are taking into your body, being aware what it is that you are experiencing.
This exhibition is partly to do with amplifying the grain of silence and noise, things that you might overlook. Even small things can have a big impact on what you see.
: This is a collection of about 10 videos, back to back, quite traditionally presented, they have noticeable beginning and end points. Basically they are recordings of work-in-progress in the space. The monitor over there is showing material of wood being brought into the gallery for the actual installation of this exhibition.
This wood was brought in especially for this exhibition to recreate a wall used as part of the installation, Wintergarden, by Daria Martin (Castlefield Gallery, 2006). But when I saw the wood arrive, I became more excited about it's length than the idea of building a wall. I thought of using the wood to accentuate the vertical and make you aware of the height of the space. I just saw these images going horizontally as well. I took the vertical, twisted it and saw the wood going across the gallery. David Martin, who is a technician and artist here, helped me realise this.
I think we are going to elaborate on it. I’d quite like to get more wood moving across the ceiling.
This monitor also includes material that forms part of the other videos in the space. As the exhibition develops materials from one environment will be moved to another and passed around.
I think a good example of this is on the monitor upstairs on the top floor. It’s a collage of various different sequences from different pieces, panels if you like. So from the upper mezzanine gallery you can get a view of the gallery, a way of monitoring the space before you enter it.
I’m interested in how you can be in one space and see another from a distance and that’s where throwing comes into play. Throwing is a way of connecting to something out of your reach; by throwing objects through space you are able to assess time, distance and gather information about the kind of environment an object is moving through. When throwing objects outside for example, I have to consider wind, otherwise I could have sheets of cloth going into traffic.
Things that are not immediately accessible to us are becoming, used, exploited and exhausted. In a sense we are living in the future. That’s one of the ideas that excites and interests me. Sometimes we are not where we are, we are almost not here.
Part of my interest in throwing and the movement of material is to explore the relationship between different entities, between one space and time and another; how you are able to access things from a completely different cultural system and they become part of your environment. But there is an immense discrepancy between one situation and another. I think this is leading to a lot of problems in communication, seeing things out of context.
: There are a few things there that I find quite interesting about this idea of ‘out of context’ or ‘out of place’. Everything comes from a place or goes to a place. It is always in a place, but also out of a place.
When you throw something you are throwing it into the future. It’s a predictive activity, it’s progressive, forward looking. In this space you also have video images that were captured here while you were preparing it, so there’s the notion of propelling something into the future, from the present and also something having been propelled into the present from the past: documentation and prediction in one equation.
I was also thinking of the monitor upstairs that shows the space down here as a CCTV which becomes part of a multi-temporality if we could call it that, because its what you are about to see.
: Thinking about this idea of different periods of time and other things effecting what we see in the space; I was fascinated seeing your tunnel lit up there and obviously (Bruce) Nauman comes to mind and other minimalist artists creating new spaces. When we were standing over there “…Brisley, Stuart Brisley…” was shouted on the video, another artist that one could relate to what you are doing in terms of process-based artwork. Do you consciously refer to other artists or is that something that just happened to come about when you were working and you just left it in?
: The video sounds came from talking with David Martin and Richard Kendrick when they were constructing the ramp here for TS Beal’s installation (Untitled - Horses, 2006). David does some process-based work and I was trying to remember an artist who I thought he’d be interested in, so I just called out Stuart Brisley’s name. When I was a student Brisley’s work really excited me, he did these huge kind of architectural constructions where he took the floor out, so you could see through different layers in the building.
: But by leaving the sound in your video you are creating a framework.
We are having this conversation that we might have somewhere else, but there just happens to be a group of people here. When Maggie and I were on the train earlier, we were talking about what we might do when we are here and having this conversation. One of the ideas that I suggested, actually given the nature of the evolutionary show, and the fact that it is continuously referring its own immediate history and as we just discovered its own immediate future, in a sense, it might be just as well for us to talk about what we are doing now as anything else for that matter. This is why I asked this question about the performative nature of this conversation.
: I’m doing an animation residency in London at the moment, at London College of Communication. One of the ideas I have is to explore conversation as performance and also animation, live, real-time conversations like this.
: Yes, absolutely. I’m trying to think about animation as something that could happen in real-time and it seems to be a pretty difficult thing to do, but it’s a way of thinking really. It’s being aware of the make-up of images and how patterns are formed.
: That’s also quite clear in the development of some of your moving image and film to video work: This kind of move away from the abstracted, synthetic image to the more direct video image, and the way that you now do a lot of work, which is almost live real-time images. I know that you edit some of the images as well, but its recording direct action, in a sense.
: Is there a question there?
: No. No. It’s just an observation.
Location: UPPER GALLERY
Panel discussion in the upper gallery begins with a screening of SKZCP (silent, looped edition, 2000), Fuzzy Lover (2003) and Kinky (2006) on a monitor. Pea Video (2006) is screened later during the discussion.
: I’ve done a lot of pea throwing over the last year. .
: Yes. I was quite interested for people to see the pea throwing work in relation to the earlier abstract ones.
What I find interesting about Riccardo’s work, is there’s a really interesting tension going on between very formal concerns. Whenever I talk to him about his work and what he’s doing, he says, “I’m interested in light. I’m interested in colour. I’m interested in movement”: Very, kind of formal things.
Whenever I see these pea-throwing things they’re kind of about social interaction. And, you’ve talked about the idea of forecasting and throwing things as if you’re throwing into the future, but to me they’re about, as well, about testing your environment. And its not a shy thing, but the sense of dipping your toe into water to see what the temperature is, or throwing a stone on a minefield to see if it explodes. It’s a kind of communication, definitely.
But this social thing that comes from it I find fascinating. You’ve done quite a few where you are throwing peas down in Whitechapel in the East End of London, and they provoke reactions. They’re quite provocative things. People say, “What are you doing?”
A lot of these things come from the conversations, which are completely spontaneous, this action of throwing the peas. I find them really interesting in relation to your formal concerns about movement. “Its about a pea going through space. It’s about green going through the air”. To me it’s not about that at all!
: It’s about that and what you are talking about. It’s not about one thing.
: But do you see a tension between those things or not?
: I see them as related. I tell you about my passions. Well, I say that I’m interested in that because I have a long history of working with colour and also I’m interested in interactivity, the way in which you physically influence your environment and how your environment influences and informs what you do as well. So it’s projected and reflected light. I see these social interactions as an expression of that interest, both in what I put out and what is coming back. I’m interested in soliciting responses from what I do.
: That was actually going to be my question. There is clearly a performative aspect to these pea-throwing videos, but the point you come back to is that you are still making videos from that. It sort of comes back to what Maggie said about there being a tension between those two things. In a sense I think Riccardo’s answer to that was that, rather than there being a tension, it’s both things. Its not either, or binary. It’s a coexistence between the two.
: What I particularly find is that quite often as well you’ll have something quite, not straightforward, but you’ll have something where you are throwing peas to understand your environment, but then you’ll go back and you will edit your video afterwards and you’ll put in special effects and to me that’s a strange tension. Its one thing and then you’ve made it into something else, but I don’t know how or why that relates.
: There’s one video, where, you probably got it here somewhere, you are throwing wet clothes around on the balcony of The Fire Station and at a certain point, you start manipulating the colour on the video and the colour becomes highly saturated, quite kind of electronic looking perhaps. Then it goes back to a more naturalistic colour that you would achieve just by shooting with a video camera.
But also, there is the aspect of that, you mentioned the other day. Riccardo gave a presentation at London College of Communication. One of the things you mentioned, which I hadn’t quite understood until you explained, is that a lot of the pea throwing videos are edited afterwards.
What I’d kind of assumed was, I was so convinced by the performative nature of it and you’d honed this process so much that you could operate the camera fast enough to get the exact moment when the pea hits the wall or the box or whatever it is. But you said that what you actually do is you go back and you edit it and you are looking for the pea on the timeline of the digital video editing software. I can understand that because I understand that would be the only way that you could see it. But it’s not a tension between those two things. It’s simply that it’s the next stage in the process.
: Some of my throwing videos are not edited. Most of the ones I show are edited because the ones that aren’t edited are up to an hour long. They are like single take videos.
I make one-take films, that is, without any editing. They’re performance videos. I call them performance videos because I improvise and record and respond to what I see and my camera movements and everything that I collect into the frame is gathered through a process of improvisation and it’s done in real time.
Some of these videos involve throwing. What happens is, whenever you throw, the camera shakes. When you watch a film for example, you might see the weave of the film as it is passing through the projector. One of the things I’m interested in is movement, how movement is necessary for us to see. You might be sitting still but your blood is making your body shake. Its a sign that you’re alive.
: You must excuse this question because I’ve got a better one at the end. When you are throwing peas, is it evocative of when you were throwing peas off your plate when you were younger?
: It is very playful. I do still do that.
: Do you actually film them landing, or do they just bounce? You know, do you pay attention to what happens to them when they land or is it just about them moving through the air?
MH: Haven’t you done ones where you actually remove the peas?
: Pea bullets.
: Well, I ordered in lots of materials in for this show, including video equipment and calico and dust-sheets. Some of them I haven’t used. Quite how I was going to use this technology for this presentation, I was never sure until the exhibition.
A lot of the material that is showing; for example the video work in this corner, was made a couple of days before the opening, and the same with several other monitors, like the one with the rabbit in it. That was made when Arthur Neve came over. The thing is, it’s not about how many monitors are in the show.
: I mean, for instance, you have got the bunny and you’ve got the flickering images, which is just behind that big projection screen in the middle. Did you just look at the images you had in your footage and choose them from there to make that installation?
: The video that’s playing on here includes material of this immediate environment. I put the monitor here and I thought well, how should I make it work? How should I make it connect to this space? So I filmed this space and incorporated that footage; so the monitor actually reflects the light outside. If you actually switch the monitor off now, you might see a reflection of yourselves in it. And some of the material that plays on this monitor actually incorporates that kind of reflection.
So there is a connection between this and its immediate environment. I’ve done that on several monitors here. I mean I shoot it. I see what it looks like and then I adjust it. Its not that this piece is finished and its not that this is one piece. In fact they are all, one piece.
: Well, I just couldn’t understand why, you’d kind of want something and then forget about it. An example of that was that you were really hot on painting these cardboard panels, and so we primed them ready to be painted and you said; Oh I don’t think we had time, and you said “just turn them round”. We turned them round, and they’re not; its not like clean cardboard. Its got bits of paint on the back and stuff. And I couldn’t understand why some things were kind of okay and would just go and then, something like the door was so important.
I think I said in the bar: Everything is okay, and everything just seemed arbitrary to me. Like every decision seemed arbitrary, but what contradicted that, was that the videos are very precisely edited. They are very edited, videos. As in there’s lots and lots of cuts. And there’s lots and lots of effects and things like that; and I couldn’t figure out where that precision came from. Everything seemed arbitrary and everything seemed okay and I couldn’t figure out what was good and what was bad, and what your sensibilities were and what was on your mind, you know?
: I’m not saying its too anything. I was interested in finding out, how a decision was made, and at what point this was okay and that wasn’t okay; because otherwise it did seem; well it kind of seemed like it might be arbitrary, but it’s not arbitrary, because its too precise. And you know, if you talk about having problems about making decisions and stuff, and really you have made decisions. There isn’t really a problem with you making decisions, because otherwise, the show wouldn’t be how it is. It’s very crafted really.
It's not like there’s loads and loads of stuff and you couldn’t make a decision so you just put everything in; because the show doesn’t look like that. So its not a mania that’s being developed. Well, you know, like Martin Creed has manias about making decisions, to the point where he reduces music down to counting to 9, and you know, making squares of masking tape. That’s a real mania about decision-making. This is not a question anymore.
: Yes. I’m not sure how to answer that.
: What is your criteria?
: I’m not sure if I can answer that question. I have to answer; I can pick up on one thing you’ve said. You talked about me having different persona.
: Yes. I mean it’s quite an open space.
My abstract film, the first I showed earlier (SKZCP, 1997/2000): That uses coloured lighting to illuminate the surface of the paint, so one colour mixes with another and here I’ve got daylight coming into a tungsten lit environment, and I’m actually videoing it, so when I’m videoing, the camera picks up the mixes of colours. The flushing of daylight will give a kind of blue tint to the colour in the space.
Returning to what Maggie was saying about special effects. The effects I use in the video you are talking about (Odd Socks, 2006), the one where I’m throwing clothing in the Fire Station; that’s also to do with light. When I’m throwing material into the air, into the sky, the camera automatically adjusts its light levels. How can I describe it? Basically I’m dealing with this movement of light into dark. So as the camera moves from the sky and follows the object to the ground, it goes from a light background to a dark background, and the actual object changes; its resonance changes.
: But do you think that’s where the tension lies because you are throwing washing? You are throwing pants and socks in the air and people aren’t necessarily going: Oh look at that dark going to light. They are going: Look! There’s a pair of pants flying through the air! Do you know what I mean? That’s where I find this tension, because people are seeing one thing and expecting.. You know they are seeing this thing: Oh it’s a social interaction. Oh it’s a funny comment made by somebody on the street. It’s you throwing peas. It’s just a kind of funny thing to do you know? It’s amusing. And then there is all this very formal discussion about this, “Oh, it’s about light and dark”, but I find that really interesting, you know? I think it makes the viewer work, which is interesting.
You have to kind of work; looking at this show, you have to work quite hard I think to get what you are doing. Although you can enjoy it just visually, and the sound, sort of all the senses going on, I think is interesting. But, you also have to work to understand it.
The tension that lies in your videos, which I’m not saying I don’t like. I kind of find it interesting, but you present the viewer with one thing, quite a direct, you know, slightly amusing video; and then you almost turn that around by putting in some sound, or, you know, some light effects, or changing that over. I find that quite interesting, because suddenly you are going: Oh, so what’s this about? I thought this was about, you know, what’s happening here?
: Yes, but as I said earlier, there is not just one idea. Its almost like an idea in progress; or several ideas combined. So, they are also interacting. It’s not just materials interacting in space, but also ideas that stem from the process. As I mentioned previously: I might have an idea, but as I actually engage with the idea, my understanding of it will change and I’ll find that a simple idea is not as simple as I thought it was. It’s made up of lots of ideas. Some of them aren’t necessarily my own.
Understanding where ideas come from isn’t always that easy. In fact I find it quite difficult sometimes knowing whether what I am thinking or saying is mine, or if I’m just basically communicating somebody else’s ideas.
How ideas migrate through society is.. I mean, I arrived at Stan Brakhage’s work through his writing. I arrived at John Cage’s work through his writing, mostly. And these things will be read by people from lots of different disciplines.
In fact, my first video piece (In-Camera, 1991) was made when I was student at Glasgow School of Art. It was an installation; a happening really. It was a seven-channel, 24-hour video recording in my flat. I gave video cameras to friends. Members of the public were invited to come and respond to and make work in the space. Performance artists, hairdressers, DJ’s, bands; they were all in my house. This was recorded and then material was played back into the space. I came to that idea, via William Burroughs’ writing, The Electronic Revolution, but later a composer friend said, “Oh that sounds like the Fontana Mix by John Cage”. And that’s something he’d done, to play with live recording and playback. So, maybe I actually encountered Cage’s work through something else. Maybe I encountered it through a book or through another artist, and, but his name was never uttered. These ideas, art ideas, just come together in so many different ways.
Does anyone want to see Odd Socks?