Context

Rigorous research into systems of influence and collaboration has led me to develop a clear methodology. I often establish a dialogue between live and pre-recorded events, where multiple perspectives and unstable truths interrogate what agency might mean.  Text, audio and image have emerged as useful tools for undermining each other. Their interplay creates space for multiple meanings and absurd dissonance. Interactive pieces have also become a critical element of my research, often taking on the guise of an ‘accidental performance’, where the audience is encouraged to consider their physical presence within the meta-narrative. 

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Architecture of the multiple

J.J. Gibson’s research into design affordances and Jeremy Till’s writings on the cultural impacts of architectural design, have been useful in broadening my research into the politics of display and in the development of Spatial Narratives (video installation, 2015). Multiscreen installations have now become a technique for processing oppositional ideas. Hito Steyerl writes: “Cinema itself explodes into multiplicity—into spatially dispersed multiscreen arrangements that cannot be contained by a single point of view. The full picture, so to speak, remains unavailable” (Is a Museum a Factory? 2009). The multiple and the multitude, the shifting values of the image from materiality to condensed zip files, reflect the way information is now digested and emphasis placed on communication or time-value. 

My recent video installation, and accompanying website, demand that your consumption of time be slowed down and focussed. Time-based mediums create a space or khôra where I can ask you to reflect on external influences. Katrina Palmer, Cally Spooner and Keith Piper have successfully shown how multiple forms can be used to access the same individual artwork; including prose, performance and installation. Piper’s Relocating the Remains, comprised a gallery exhibition, monograph, interactive CD-Rom and an online project. ‘In the case of this project, the act of 'relocation' takes on multiple meanings. In a literal sense, the relocation becomes from physical to virtual space.' I have come to adopt I have come to adopt this multi-form, multiscreen manner of working to undermine an overarching authority and create artworks that can enter into nuanced, lacuna spattered conversations with each other.

Comms.

In earlier works, emerging from a curiosity about how information is disseminated and institutional critiques, I have adopted the role of Rancière’s Ignorant School Master. This led to the development of fast paced 'information programmes’ where unruly Socratic subtitles question the power of the viewing space over the audience. Elizabeth Price’s transcriptions, styled as Greek chorus, act as a conduit between image, sound and and audience, creating a driving rhythm. This has helped me to reflect on the purpose of text in my videos. Price speaks through pre-used word arrangements and the text becomes another archival accompaniment to film footage; whereas I create my own linguistic haikus mixing re-appropriated and self-made images. This enables me to develop complex ideas through simple text that slips between institutional voice and absurdist critique. 

Having delighted in many Modernist writers direct ‘zero degree of writing’ style (Roland Barthes), my scripts and texts use language as another material rather than a descriptor. The interplay of word, image, audio and screen has become an important feature of my practice.

Ha ha!

Humour forms part of my methodology, it began to emerge in an early video sculpture that explored voyeurism, Playing the Fall (2014). The bespectacled viewing cage creates what Simon Critchley describes as ‘the gap between being a body and having a body’ (On Humour); a physically uncomfortable dialogue between the audience and the screen with a dash of the absurd thrown in.

 

 

 

 

 

Miranda July, Laure Provost and Heather Phillipson, have created hyperrealities with their humorous treatments of the everyday; guided through narrative signage in The Hallway (Miranda July, installation, 2008) and invited on a sensual-linguistic exploration of the alphabet (Heather Phillipson, video 11 min 55, A Is to D what E Is to H). The comical becomes a tool, able to reveal ‘that an accepted pattern has no necessity’ (Mary Douglass). Through a humorous, conflicted narrative, This is a Line/ This is a Memory/ This is a Pixel (video, 4min 58, 2014) destabilises how memory, time and image might be understood. Illustrating how absurdity might be used to challenge engrained systems of behavioural influence, not as continued propaganda but as a question or thought experiment.

 

The relational work of Rirkrit Tiravanija, with fully functioning art-installation eateries also creates an openness; Or the collaborative aspect of Jeremy Deller’s Venice Biennale contribution ( English Magic 2013) where he showcased untrained drawings from imprisoned ex-servicemen, creating an affecting critique of war.  In an altogether different way, Lindsay Seers succeeds at this through large scale video installations that appear like fictionalised research projects, with low-lit narratives layered one on top of the other. Experimenting with ‘open’ forms and live elements such as performance-lectures (Chelsea Eaves, 2015), walking tours (Intervals, 2014) and pop-up events (Hometown, 2014) has sometimes blurred authorship and become a useful way to create discussion around choice making.

 

Collaboration, Site & Performance

Often using the interplay between digital and physical materials to reframe experiences of site, La Tua Vita Per Me (video installation, 2014) saw projections hide within the video frame amongst the physical world. Miwon Kwon’s research into the site-specific artistic canon offers a context in which to understand this area of interest. Kwon charts how the notion of site has evolved from a tangible location, to include conceptual spaces. This can be seen in works like Hands Up Don’t Shoot (FLAC Group, V&A 2015), a Morse Code inspired ringtone that crosses through public, private and virtual space. It inhabits what Manuel Castells names as real virtualities, our current, digitally engaged reality where site can now exist through the interdependency of physical and virtual worlds.

 

Working collaboratively and responding to site have become useful tools for my research. Collectives such as LuckyPDF and Bernadette Corporation are intriguing examples of collective art making, distorting the boundaries between identity and institution. I am part of two collectives, Marion Phillini and FLAC Group, who similarly play with identity and have grown out of shared research interests: the interaction between the digital and physical, public and private spaces and systems of influence. Going from Umberto Ecco’s belief that an ‘open work’ encourages ‘fields of meaning’ rather than an individual Truth, through collaboration possibilities for meaning are multiplied.

 

 

 

 

Ella Phillips MFA 

© 2013 by Ella Phillips

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