Selected VIII at Whitechapel Gallery reviewed by Louie Young

Since 2011, videoclub’s Selected programme has been showcasing witty, thought-provoking video art from Britain’s most exciting early career filmmakers. Now in its eighth edition, Selected is full of works that feel politically urgent in their choice of subject matter yet remain refreshingly playful in their treatment of it. For such a long running programme this is surely an achievement, perhaps attributed to its formatting where Film London Jarman Award recipients nominate artists from which videoclub and FLAMIN curate the final show. Included this year are films by Kamile Ofoeme, Gery Georgieva, Jala Wahid, Tim Bowditch, Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau & Sybella Perry and Rob Crosse, while Imran Perretta’s brother to brother and Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings’ Gaby particularly standout.

Based on his experience of being detained at a UK airport under anti-terror laws, Imran Perretta’s brother to brother seeks to challenge the nation state and the manner in which it marginalises certain groups of citizens.

The film begins in a studio, frame filled with a green-screen backdrop, and sitting in the middle a naked brown body recoiling from an unseen oppressor. Unknown to viewers the body is in fact Perretta’s own, and throughout the following seven minutes he remains a consistent presence as the green screen flickers between images of what look like the Ganges River Delta. Shot predominantly by drone and processed with a certain high definition artificiality, these images – alongside a text-based account of his detention – call to mind Michel Foucault’s notion of Biopower and state use of new imaging technology to reinforce colonial hierarchies first developed under the British Empire.

Hannah Quinlan and Rosie Hastings also employ personal narrative as a vehicle to engage with broader political contentions. In their film Gaby, the narrative centres around their friend’s experience of dating a policeman and how LGBTQ+ culture is internalised within the logic of late capitalism and its systems of control.

The film itself is split into three chapters; found footage of police dancing to YMCA at pride festivals around the world, clippings of a newspaper article extolling the efforts of gay men in gentrifying hitherto ‘undesirable’ (aka Black) areas of New York City, and an animated sequence of the eponymous Gaby’s story.

Technically, both films are extremely well-constructed and display a fidelity of craft sometimes lacking in artists’ film and video. This is also the case for Jala Wahid, Tim Bowditch, Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau & Sybella Perry whose films make great use of CGI and sound respectively.

Overall, videoclub and FLAMIN have assembled a fascinating collection of films, each with accessible yet intelligent politics. This is clearly a group of artists eager to make their mark on a precarious world and Selected VIII gives us a brief glimpse at how it might look.

Go to the Selected VIII page on videoclub’s website for details about screening dates and venues across the UK.

Co-produced by This is Wyld.

An interview with Hong Kong-based artist Choi Sai Ho

An interview with Choi Sai Ho following his residency in Brighton in August 2016, and the making of his work Brighton is Our Playground, commissioned by videoclub and Royal Pavilion & Museums, for the exhibition Experimental MotionBrighton is Our Playground was created using found footage from Screen Archive South East. Project was co-produced by This is Wyld.

To start off with, can you tell us a little about the work you make, and what inspires you to make it?

In regard to found footage, it really depends on what found footage you’ve got. The structure I was editing, in fact, involved a very primitive “story” or “narrative” structure – a man goes to the car, then car journey, Brighton, introducing people at the beach, and so on. I started thinking about what musical style would fit the work while watching the footage.

Your work often involves a combination of visuals and sound – is either more important to you? How do you decide what kind of visuals go with what sounds?

In making this work, I treated it as making a film. Both visuals and sound are important to me. While I was watching the found footage (most of it is silent film), I had some ideas about music genres such as Triphop, Downtempo, Ambient, etc. within Electronica style, and that it should not be too complicated, and should not have too many instruments for the soundtrack.

After building a very rough piece of music, I edited the footage following the beats and rhythms of the music piece. The music always decides the tempo and rhythm of the film. So it makes easier for editing. The good thing about being a composer and filmmaker is I can make changes immediately during the creative process if the footage does not match with the music or vice versa. I can change either one of these in order to fit with the other. When I watched the old footage, I found that the beach footage was so beautiful, basically this old footage was so beautiful, and they were real and existed – the people at the beach [Father Neptune Ceremony on Brighton Beach, 1951, Roger Dunford], the young couple, the cameraman and the director inside the film [Local News in Brighton & Hove, 1951]… I knew I had to include this footage to show these beautiful images. And I needed the beautiful melodies to match with this footage so I composed it and put it to this film artwork.

In August, you took part in a residency in Brighton with videoclub, and worked with Screen Archive South East to produce a new work for Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, Brighton is Our Playground. Can you tell us a little about the film, and how you decided on which archive films to include in your final film?

I saw that so much footage was from car driver seats, train windows, trams or other transportation in UK. I’ve always liked the point-of-view shot from driver’s seats. I wanted the audience to also experience what it was like a few decades ago journeying in a car or train. A bit like music structure, the beginning and the ending is the same or similar, so you would see the POV shots were used at the beginning and the ending of my film artwork here. Furthermore, I tried to include different eras of Brighton and UK while deciding upon the archive films.

What was it like working with the Screen Archive?

They were so helpful and they manage the archive and access to footage very well. Normally the general public may not be interested in watching these films unless you are film scholars, film lovers, researchers or artists, etc. It is a very good way for the public to watch the footage through my work. I guess it is also a kind of cultural preservation, preserving the old films and cultural activity as well. I hope my work can bring this old footage to life again, showing the beautiful things that exist in history.

The soundtrack to Brighton is Our Playground is quite fast-paced, quite in contrast to what people think of a soundtrack to archival films, why did you decide to compose this type of music?

To me, making music is similar to editing films. Practically, electronic music is more convenient for me to work on. The spectrum of electronic music is so wide. I hope people have a different perception about electronic music after watching my work. It can be fast-paced and soft downtempo too. For the beginning of my work, you would hear my own field recordings of Brighton beach. The contemporary electronic music mixing or colliding with old film footages may be a good mixture here. Making artworks always involves experiments. Creators are always trying different combinations to see if it works or not.

Seoul Mediacity, MMCA Film & Video, Doenjang-jjigae

Seoul is an energetic, exciting city, with a lot going on; commercial galleries, large museums, and many private institutions, which are run as not-for-profit spaces. Artists’ moving image can be seen at most types of space, whether government funded or privately financed.

Our first stop was at Seoul Mediacity Biennale at Seoul Museum of Art, which included moving image, installation and photographic work. It’s a curiously curated show, fragmented and difficult to navigate, with artworks intruding on others – a moving sculpture occludes a collection of photographs – and sound bleeds, making some work unintelligible.

An installation by Marguerite Humeau, an ugly yellow room with incomprehensible singing, vexes and confuses, and does little to satisfy, even the deadly black mamba venom mixed into the paint on the walls fails to grip. Other works sit in odd positions, screens hidden or in cocoons. Though there are some great works throughout the biennial, it just needs a little time and space.

One work stood out for me, João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiv’s installation of several 16mm projectors showing ordinary objects in glorious states; in one film, Chopping Fruits and Vegetables(2015), shows fruit and vegetables being thinly sliced, projected at speed, revealing the undeniable beauty of everyday food. Not perfectly installed, the fluttering of the 16mm projectors flew out to bleed over other work, but it pulsed beautifully on the lens.

Later that evening we went to the opening of MMCA’s Film & Video programme, opening with a film by Vincent Meessen, ‘One.Two.Three’, which crescendos inside a fiery rumba club after some slow-paced tension. MMCA’s deck overlooks the mountains, and we were treated to a blushing sunset. We met with Eunhee Kim, Assistant curator, MMCA Film and Video. Followed by dinner with Jangwook Lee, Director of EXiS Film Festival – a rich and comprehensive experimental film festival in Seoul – at his family’s restaurant for some traditional Korean food. Spicy bean soup (Doenjang-jjigae); the best.

Hong Kong: consulates, venues and collaborations

As the first port of call and a place of recent collaboration and partnership, I wasn’t expecting to unfold such great opportunities in Hong Kong. Had some great meetings that really contributed to the development of Both Sides Now for 2016, and interesting information on venues/activity, including an educational exchange programme, a residency and super meetings with British Council and Swiss Consulate General.

Erwin Luthi is deputy director of the Swiss Consulate General – we decided to visit him as we’ve previously worked with Connecting Spaces (through Videotage), which is a project of Zurich University of the Arts. Erwin gave us some great advice regarding places we might want to present video work at, or who could be good collaborators, in Hong Kong and Switzerland, here are a few:

Lausanne Underground Film and Music Festival (SW) – Visual Art Center (HK) (Apparently inexpensive to hire.) – Hong Kong International Film Festival (HK) – East Kowloon Flyover / Energising Kowloon East (HK) – PMQ (HK)

At British Council we met with Grace Zhang and Meijing Hei, who (very usefully) let us know that only ODA (official development assistance) countries (those in receipt of development aid) will receive funds from British Council from 2017. Which gives an interesting focus. British Council will be doingshowcase of British work in Korea during 2017, where there is potential for collaboration. And then Tokyo/Japan in 2020. We were encouraged to develop a clear digital strategy if we were wanting to approach British Council to get financial support.

While in Hong Kong we managed to outline a couple of good opportunities with partners, one with Hong Kong Institute of Education – a residency for an individual, to work on a collaborative artists’ film with artists from Hong Kong; the other an educational exchange with K11 Art Foundation, to bring together artists and students from the UK and Hong Kong.

Kisses, picnics and film at Art Basel

I don’t remember seeing much artists’ moving image at the art fairs during Art Basel Hong Kong, which struck me as a little strange, but I always feel strange at commercial art fairs. The shocking lighting, the mixture of appalling art work with some classic pieces that look like they should be in a museum. All this complemented and in contrast with the revved up, label-slicked, money-gownery striding everywhere with champagne in hand. It feels like a mockery of the art world (all that creativity and unique ideas perverted into another reason to get dressed up and go shopping for the rich), but this is a core part of that world now.

The main pillar of artists’ film at Art Basel was the Art Basel Film programme. This is the second year Art Basel Hong Kong has implemented a film programme, which gives moving image artists represented by galleries at Art Basel a platform to exhibit work that exists away from the bustling mall-like fair.

Curated by Li Zhenhua, Beijing and Zurich-based producer and multimedia artist, screenings were held over four days in Hong Kong Arts Centre’s cinema space. Seven themes were explored over the four days, drawing the films into discrete programmes of work.

As the way is with screenings, it was, for me, a mixture of excellent, fair, and not so great work. The first two films, represented by Star Gallery, were in the great category. PICNIC by Chen Tianzhou is a riotous escapade of sexually charged madness; colourful, blissed out, marvellous and delirious. Drug-induced delirium is suggested at the start, and continues throughout. It is irreverent, gripping, a good antidote to the many banal works in the art fair.

A Thousand Kisses Deep by Song Kun is a slippery, sexual film; architecture intermingles with human bodies and octopus tentacles, striving to get closer to each other, increasing in number as they desperately entangle. The film is a sensual meditation on the rapid growth of cities, and growing numbers of people living in them.

A third film I really appreciated was Lu Yang’s Manga-style animation Uterusman, an overview of a superhero whose superpowers derive from a woman’s genitalia, Uterusman himself being made up of the collective elements of the female reproductive system. Superpowers include: blood energy altitude flying, sanitary pad skateboard, blood chain defence, ovum light wave attack, DNA attack, pelvis chariot, baby weapon, plus more.

The film dynamically mixes in archival film of blood flowing, ovulation, birth and umbilical cord clipping, presenting female reproductive processes as super while everyday. The artist denied that she intended the film to be feminist, but confirmed that she wanted to present a character who combined male and female attributes as a way of expressing everyone is equal. It’s a very funny, challenging film, the insightful contents of which, I believe, the artist is still to become aware of.

Art Basel Film programme was a great opportunity to duck out of the kerfuffle of art fair crazy, and to take some peace in knowing that there is some good art for sale. I look forward to next year’s programme.

Washington DC, Hillyer Art Space, the capital

Cohesion - Daniel Shanken

Cohesion – Daniel Shanken

Hillyer Art Space, 15/05/14

This is my first time in DC and I’m surprised by how much I like it, the low rise buildings and handsome architecture, combined with the unavoidable sense of intrigue, make it feel warm and dynamic at the same time.

Hillyer Art Space is centrally located at Dupont Circle, it sits nestled behind hotels and embassies, right in the middle of the capital. I realise it’s the first contemporary art gallery that I’ve shown the programme at, and it feels very welcome.

The space is managed by two full-time staff, Allie Frazier (Events and Public Programme Coordinator) and Allison Nance (Gallery Director), working alongside interns to deliver the programme, which is a combination of short-term exhibitions, screenings and artist talks.

We sit in the gallery space with iced coffee (it is a warm, muggy day) and talk about the funding situation in Washington DC and the infrastructure for film in the city. It appears the main support structure for showing film in the city is via festivals, including DC Shorts Festival, DC Independent Film Festival and 48 Hour Film Project. A couple of other gallery spaces show artists’ film, but mainly as exhibited work, rather than as screenings, these are: Hamiltonian Gallery and Project 4 Gallery.

We talk about funding for the arts. DC Commission for the Arts sounds like a god-send for the city, which funds individual artists and organisations with non-project funding, received following an application to the commission. Unusually the city has a decent amount of funding, compared to other US cities. Finance is gathered by the commission through the city’s planning gain programme, i.e. by requiring new construction in the city to provide funds towards cultural activity in exchange for being given planning rights.

I have a good conversation with Allie and Allison about the possibility of working together, and I’m hoping there might be a way for us to collaborate in the future. I hope so, because the Hillyer Arts Space team and space are inspiring. And I like Washington DC – a lot.

The screening takes place in the centre of the gallery space in the evening, and has an excellent turn out; helped along, I am sure, by the free, freshly made popcorn. The films are received really well, lots of discussion ensues afterwards and I feel really proud of the programme and the artists who made the work.

Afterwards, the Hillyer guys take me to an amazing dive bar, which I am failing to remember the name of. It sold the most wonderful variety of craft beers, including banana beer, which was surprisingly very good. I’ll update with a name when I have one. Allie, Allison?

And now, home…

New York, Spectacle Theater, Brooklyn

Boys by Piotr Krzymowski on screen at Spectacle Theater

Boys by Piotr Krzymowski on screen at Spectacle Theater

Spectacle Theater, 13/05/14

This is my first time in Brooklyn, and I’m struck by certain similarities it has to Brighton, at least the Williamsburg part that I’m in. Independent bars and stores, cute coffee shops with tech heads working away, and the ‘local’ feeling of a town. It’s very heart-warming after the swarms of Manhattan.

Spectacle Theater is a volunteer-run independent space, set up by a group of individuals who wanted to get more diverse, challenging and foreign language work shown in New York. The space has windows covered in posters from current and previous shows, it looks like the wrong type of exciting might happen inside; it’s stimulating after the shiny, clean downtown spaces.

John Dieringer, one of the programmers and projectionists for the space – who has been amazing in helping me out with showing the work – meets me at Spectacle. We test the films and talk about Spectacle’s work. Incredibly, the volunteer run space does a seven day a week programme, with sometimes three screenings per day. I am stunned by this, in awe. Ten volunteers are on the programme committee and research and deliver a seven day programme, this has been happening for three and a half years. Something to be said for the sustainability of voluntary-led organisations…

We have a small crowd, but they’re ideal; including one of the Selected 4 (2014’s programme) artists, Ian Giles, who brings along some friends. Films are received well, there’s some discussion at the end and we pack up.

I go for a drink with John following the screening and we talk about opportunities for seeing artists’ film as a screening, and, as has been usual, it’s not a common practice, even in New York. Light Industry is probably the most well know, a similar organisation to the Lux in UK. I’m also referred to Union Docs for interesting work going on in the city. There is also New York Film Anthology. I was told by another New York resident that Flux Factory and Silent Barn also do screenings from time to time.

And finally, Washington DC.

LA, Echo Park Film Center, Tom of Finland

Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles

Echo Park Film Center, Los Angeles

Echo Park Film Center, 08/05/14

Echo Park Film Center is jewel of a place, the walls are lined with film canisters, DVDs and information about films and processing films. When I arrive the education coordinator for Echo Park is hand processing some film in readiness for a youth session on film processing. I like this place, it feels rare and rather magical.

Rick Bahto (or Dicky), Echo Park’s curator and programmer, is sparkling with energy and enthusiasm for film, I feel immediately inspired on meeting him. We do a test run of the films and decide to go get a drink together to talk about LA and artists here.

Rick talks to me about some of the other spaces that are receptive to experimental film in LA, these include: Redcat (an interdisciplinary arts centre, with exhibitions, screenings and performances), LA Filmforum (the longest running not-for-profit organisation screening experimental and independent films in Southern California) and Human Resources (a mixed arts space, with screening programmes). Rick also suggests, for inspiration for artists, the New Works Salons, which he curates, and which showcases new work for discussion.

Echo Park’s audience feeds back positively on the films, several questions regarding Naheed Raza’s Silk – a visceral, affective film, which explores the environment of spiders being raised for silk harvesting and the process used to do this – arise. It’s an appreciative audience, and I would really like to work with Echo Park again on other programmes or future work. Rick’s obvious passion and knowledge of artists and the sector is really valuable, and it would be good to work with someone who is so committed to film and video.

After the screening we go to the Tom of Finland House for Tom of Finland’s birthday party, organised by my friend Stuart Sandford who is artist in residence there. My final evening in LA, and I am sad to leave.

Now for a flight to the east coast, and New York. 

 

Tucson, Exploded View Gallery, desert

Exploded View Gallery, Tucson, AZ

Exploded View Gallery, Tucson, AZ

Here I was expecting Tucson to be a hard sell, and the type of town I would feel most alien too. But no, if anything, I felt most comfortable here. Tucsonians are generous, beautiful, creative and friendly people. If you want to feel welcome, come here.

Reception of the Selected 3 programme at Exploded View Gallery was exceptional; applause after each film, whistles, appreciative laughter, sighs – everything in compliment. I was over the moon by the end with a deeply embedded grin on my face.

The screening was followed by interested questions; all the films were talked about, again Sophie Beresford’s Making Adidas Mermaid got attention – loved very much. Lots of curiosity about Cheryl Simmons’ film What are you doing man? They’re cooking my men like sausages. A glorious collage piece that examines reinterpretation and memory.

Exploded View is unique in Tucson; opportunities to show artists’ film and experimental work rely on Rebecca and David’s commitment to the gallery, which is an inspirational example. The University of Arizona’s Center for Creative Photography is worth checking out (the archive gets shown off to the public every Friday), and, off the arts track, there is also the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, a superb department for those interested in dendrochronology.

Tucson also has an amazing desert surrounding it, with huge Saguaro cacti soaring into the sky, perched on the mountain slopes like armies of headless triffids. I was driven into the desert by Carl Hanni, a devoted Tucsonian, who generously took me on a hike to see the Saguaros, desert sunset and endless mountainous landscape.

I leave Tucson with a heavy heart, but with eyes set on LA for Echo Park Film Center and to see some good friends.

Tucson desert sunset

Tucson desert sunset

Phoenix, No Festival Required, old and new

Cohesion by Daniel Shanken on screen at Space 55 with No Festival Required

Cohesion by Daniel Shanken on screen at Space 55 with No Festival Required

Cloudy LA skies are welcome today following the brilliant, burning desert skies of Phoenix and Tucson for the past week. I even, perversely, imagined British winter chill for a moment in the deep heating sun. Just for a moment.

Model audiences. If you want model artists’ film audiences go to Tucson’s Exploded View Gallery and also arrange a screening with No Festival Required in Phoenix. My enormous thanks to Rebecca and David at Exploded View and to Steve Weiss of No Festival Required (who got me totally drunk in a Tiki bar in Phoenix, so drunk I woke up sideways on the hotel bed with my clothes and shoes still on).

Phoenix, with its mixture of sparkly new cultural venues (Phoenix Art Museum is well worth a visit, a mixture of permanent and temporary, contemporary and historic exhibits in a very nice building) and more raw, established and experimental spaces (Modified/Arts being a classic example), has a rich seam of art and culture running through it. The screening of Selected 3 takes place at one of the latter type of venues, an exciting performing arts space entitled Space 55; its delightful bar space with old couches and memorabilia beckons drinking.

The screening goes well, and the audience receives the work with pleasure; lots of discussion follows, with much interest in Sophie Beresford’s work, Making Adidas Mermaid, which fascinates, and with Nicholas Brook’s Arrastre. I’m deeply appreciative of Steve Weiss’s gathering of such model AMI fans. Other suggested organisations to consider from Steve include: Arizona State University, which has an excellent Intermedia programme; Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (where No Festival Required has a regular programme); and, as mentioned, Modified/Arts.

I’m going to update on Tucson in a second post to follow…