Artists’ film and sculpture

I have become aware of a number of artists currently working with film or video who are also devising physical environments for those films to the extent that the work is made complete only within that sculptural scenario. This is what I propose to focus on during the Henry Moore Research Fellowship.

David Maljkovic’s work has a focus on sculpture in terms of both content and context. For his installation of Images with their own shadows at Glasgow International in 2010, Maljkovic built a sculptural multi-façade theatre set. This sculptural element, working with the physicality of the projector in the space, was as prominent as the film and, in fact, was there throughout while the film cycled through re-spooling absences.

When Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer exhibited their work Pygmalion Workshop 2008 in the glass-sided Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin they constructed an elevated enclosure which allowed their film to be viewed as a back projection within the daylight space. The enclosure was driven by practical needs, but its ambiguous nature alongside other sculptural works exhibited in this group show including the artists’ other works identifies it as a complete work in this sculptural manifestation.

For the ICA’s Nought to Sixty series in 2008, Gail Pickering built a three-dimensional environment for her film, Brutalist Premonition. Design references to a stylised domestic interior, suitable to the subject matter of the piece, were subsumed in an overall aesthetic of modernist compositional strategy.

In Haroon Mizra’s work Birds of Pray, (Northern Art Prize 2010), an assemblage of domestic furniture is skewered by the corner of a projection screen, part of the image spilling onto the wall behind, pointing to another component of the installation.

It is not surprising, or new, that artists design the way of seeing their work: Jacco Olivier’s animations are projected at a specific small size and João Maria Gusmão + Pedro Paiva‘s Experiments and Observations on Different Kinds of Air was shown in a velvety pitch-black labyrinth for Venice Biennial 2009.

Some artists move into the three dimensions to cater for and control how the audience sits (and feels). In 2010’s Manifesta the multiscreen video work, Backbench, by Ergin Cavusoglu, was displayed on the same oversized discussion benches on which the piece was recorded, locating you as a mute party within the discussion, dissolving the time frame between viewing and production of the work. Another example of this would be Venetian, Atmospheric by Tobias Putrih, a pod like outdoor cinema in Venice, described in the Biennale information as ‘both a sculpture and a functional pavilion’.

One event during Sculpture of the screen at Tate Britain, 2003 presented the ‘different ways that film/video artists have approached the screen as a sculptural site’. That programme included David Dye who called his 70s works ‘film sculptures’ and several artists included in the Rewind Archive. Some of these artists wanted to break the illusion of the projected image. This led at times to the revealing of the projection equipment, making a sculptural environment from the mechanics of the medium.

The influence of the situation, competition, curators and technicians involved in the presentation of these works may, at times, be relevant when considering the decisions made, or agreed, by the artist but this is probably more of significance when thought of as a general movement forward across the genre rather than in individual cases.

My focus for working at Henry Moore Institute would be artists who have a practice where the development of the physical and the filmic are intrinsic to the final work.

In considering the history of artists’ film and sculpture we can see important reference points to consider. This is partly a benefit of retrospect as the physical aesthetics of certain technologies, the Hantarex cube monitor or domestic portable television, are seen now through the distance of time (particularly relevant as technologies move closer to seamless with films becoming part of the white cube displayed on recessed LED displays). Looking back at 60s and 70s artists’ video is also helpful because of its relationship with performance (for artist and audience). Many of these early works for artists like Stuart Marshall and David Hall ‘uncompromisingly referred the viewer back to the specificity of the technology’ (1) – but were primarily devised as a complex analogical mirror where the viewer, interacting with his/her image as collaborator rather than spectator, was ‘simultaneously the viewed in a process of self-referring consciousness'(2).

I wonder if the enhanced involvement of the viewer is something that other artists are striving for in working with both physical and filmic space.

One of the primary differences between sculpture and film is that there is typically one physical viewing approach to screen based works whereas a sculpture can be seen in the round. Sometimes the introduction of sculptural elements also comes with a simultaneous breaking down and extension of the projected image, making the viewer aware that it is three-dimensional light casting it’s image and shadow on multiple planes. Where David Maljkovic’s work cited above still encouraged a straight-on viewing, Haroon Mizra’s installation encouraged the viewer to walk around the work and view from multiple angles and distances.

While at Henry Moore Institute:

Library research about the artists I am interested in and to gain awareness of other artists that I had not considered.

Interviews with a selection of artists to discover further their motivation in using film and sculpture together.

Research into the roots of those artists’ interest and consider if any similarities are apparent. (for example are artists with an affinity for theatre or performance more likely to use film and sculpture together).

Prompting of a series of discussions with colleagues at HMI and local artists about what the boundaries are when considering sculpture and artists’ film together. (when is a bespoke seating structure just a seating structure, how minimal can a sculpture be? For example is a suspended angled projection screen a sculpture?)

Possible outcomes:

Small exhibition within Henry Moore Institute if possible. There would be potential for a new work to be commissioned from one artist or for existing works to be shown.

Report on my findings and thoughts. This is likely to be accompanied by other smaller pieces of writing which could be more conversational or creative.

Potential for research to feed into larger research focus and perhaps physical or written outputs from HMI interest in sculpture and film.

Prior to my visit:

Two days research at the Rewind Archive in Dundee looking at how its artists used physical space, three dimensional structures and the materiality of the technology they were using.

References and links:

1 Stuart Marshall, ‘Video: from Art to Independence’, Screen, Vol 26, No 2, March/April, 1985, p 69.
2 David Hall, ‘The Video Show’, Art and Artists, Vol 10, No 2, Issue No 110, May,1975, p 22.

This research proposal by Laura Simpson was submitted to the Henry Moore Institute in application to their Research Fellowship Scheme in 2011.