There is no war without representation [. . .] Weapons are tools not just of destruction but also of perception – Paul Virilio
If technology turns our modes and acts of vision into violence; then what is it to continually recreate the image? Our new art project wrestles with just this question. The artists in the exhibition don’t take the image’s instability or defacement as loss, and, as with a war of representations, simulation is as much sensory as it is representational.
In his 1989 book War And Cinema, French critic Paul Virilio argues that narcotics, lenses, light from both weapons and explosives, radar maps in planes, etc, all form new fields of perception, and change how we place our self as a subject. Virilio refers to German writer Ernst Jünger’s memoirs (Storm of Steel) on his experiences during the First World War: as attack and defence weapons develop in unison, so too do viability and invisibility. For Jünger in wartime (viewing his surroundings through devices and representations) “The landscape had the transparency of glass.” As our vision and means of representation become expanded, there is too derailment. The image, damaged as it becomes more prolific.
As an end point to this year’s programme at Arcadia Missa Gallery, artists Clunie Reid and Hannah Perry are each exhibiting one new and previously unseen video piece. The works in the exhibition demonstrate the artists’ processes of appropriation. In the creation of new sentences, Reid and Perry illustrate the vulnerability of the image, via an authorial control that moulds and reinstates it. Below are excerpts from a conversation between Kari Rittenbach and the artists in preparation for an upcoming catalogue text by Rittenbach on their work for their forthcoming volume, Open Office Anthology.
When collecting sound or images for an artwork, what draws you to a particular picture or material? Is it an intuitive thing, or do you look for certain tropes or clichés?
Hannah Perry: I suppose you might call it intuitive, but at the same time I have a methodology which is actually quite rigid. It’s a combination of hearing / seeing things organically and having something stick with you or give a specific meaning to something. I watched a documentary about the comedian Bill Hicks one day while I was cleaning my room. There were some things he spoke about in his stand-up that were so specific and so definite yet he had so much passion. I was moved. And his sentences stuck with me for a very long time. You might be moved (in a good or bad way) when reading a phrase in a book or poem, looking at an image on a billboard, re-watching some footage you shot and noticing a specific glance or gesture. As I look at footage I’ll see other imagery linked to it, in my mind. I might be listening to a song on my iPhone when I’m cycling and think of a bit of video that I shot when I was 18. This is why I listen to music, but also podcasts and lectures, when I’m cycling. It helps to think. My films are presented in a sort of series of vignettes. I want the sections to seem like introductions to different characters, situations, ideas or mise-en-scènes. Because many of these ‘moments’ are nuanced and not merely the sum of all that is ready-to-hand, but a web of significant relations in which Dasein exists. These vignettes enable me to bring up both culturally and personally relevant moments and look at how they are interconnected. There isn’t a single ambition, opinion or issue, but several -- I’m presenting the viewer with a sentiment.
What is the one work of art you can't stop thinking about? Do you find it compelling because it is beautiful, or perhaps because it is terrible?
Clunie Reid: I can’t get over Sturtevant’s ability to still pose questions of the ontology of the artwork.
Hannah Perry: Sarah Lucas is my favourite artist. She is amazing. I like her humour.
How does writing work in relation to your practice? Do you keep notes separately and pair them with images as correspondences emerge, or is the writing more like an act of defacement that is intrinsic to the composition process?
Clunie Reid: I’m not a writer at all but I’ve been trying to generate stuff in relation to other texts and images more broadly, as a kind of associative note-taking, but it’s really just sort of arbitrary lists and sequences. Defacement has become a cliché of my own making so I’m developing something else. I want language to have a more autonomous function and no longer be seen as a response to the image. The video [in the exhibition at Arcadia Missa] is sort of an extension of notes I took while reading Nick Land's essay "Shamanic Nietzsche"
What is your relationship to video? It seems almost like your drawings and dibond holographs work as sequential frames in an animation storyboard -- is there an inherent narrative arc to them, or is that the point of simultaneous installation (an overwhelming statement)?
Clunie Reid: I have been working in video since 2007 but only showing it sporadically. Quite often the still images come from videos I’ve edited either as superimpositions or layers of a digital montage (photographic not cinematic). The videos are a way of dealing with sequences of still images or layers of stills in order to build their intensity and make them immersive through duration and pulse. I never think in terms of narrative, more of abstract and material sensation.
How does installation feature in your work; is the gallery space an ideal space for encountering your videos and images or do you imagine they might have wider distribution (via television, internet, etc.)?
Hannah Perry: Gallery space only for me usually. If I am asked to do something for an online project then I will make something especially for that, as something outside my practice and different to what I’m usually interested in. I have never really thought about television or radio. I think it could work, but again, I would have to craft something specific for the medium. I typically work towards physical installations.
Can you speak a little bit about the technological time-flattening that takes place when you process video? I like the sense of confusion this produces, because it seems like an attempt to override nostalgia. But is this purely an aesthetic choice?
Hannah Perry: There is an element of nostalgia, especially when I’m talking about identity, but I am also interested in the quality of the footage from a material point of view; looking at the different surfaces and textures. VHS has an amazing quality. When I transfer my new footage onto VHS I like to edit it in analogue with a couple of VHS players and a deck. It’s really hard to control how the frames will jitter. I like this lack of control and trying to control it. I hope that I can push this idea when making new work. I use VHS because of the texture and unpredictability. The footage is often brand new – I’ve been trying to push and confuse the process.