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Converse Highlight of the Week: Rory Middleton

The Edinburgh-based artist impressed the Converse/Dazed Emerging Artists Award judges with his fusion of architecture, performance and sculpture

The Converse/Dazed Emerging Artists Award submission that's tickled our inbox this week is from Edinburgh-based artist Rory Middleton. Holding a BA from Falmouth and an MFA from Glasgow School of Art, he has done his fair share of interesting money-jobs including barman, cycle courier and even zoo keeper. Concerned with 'landscape and place and the people and animals of that place', his often immersive work sits on the intersection between architecture, performance and sculpture, highlighting an element of the unnoticed and 'turning it up a notch' with cinematic flourish.

On his recent residency on the bleak and beautiful Fogo Island in Canada, he made a 10m form of timber frame and ice walls by a frozen lake that acted as amphitheatre. Islanders on snowmobiles gathered by his mobile rum bar and open fire, alongside a projection an out-of-focus sunset and the amplified sounds of ice cracking, a lone coyote and underwater streams...

Dazed Digital: How did you get started making art?
Rory Middleton: I often found myself making things (sometimes while at work when I should have been mending a fence to stop animals escaping)... I decided to give it a go and applied to do a foundation at Leith School of Art.

DD: Describe your process...
Rory Middleton: In my work I explore cinema, architecture and landscape, often making installations, which involve sculpture and video. I use elements such smoke, smell, sound and water to create environments in which the viewer can enter. When I work with a place I will sometimes go with a lose framework as a starting point or sometimes with nothing at all and allow that place to inform my process and filter through.

DD: Explain the relationship between sculpture, performance and photography in your work?
Rory Middleton: I use Sculpture in a way to create an atmosphere for the viewer to experience the work, with ‘The Hawk and the Eagle' the viewer almost became part of the performance. Like figures in a film, they entered the mountain and climbed the staircase inside to the Modernist house above. Smoke ascended through slits in the steps, highlighted by shafts of light from beneath. I worked with The Phantom Band to heighten the atmosphere further, recording a soundtrack that was audible throughout the space, once in the House the viewer could look through the 16/9 ratio window overlooking a mysterious landscape, (a model of an imaginary landscape made in the studio with back projected sky, filmed and re-back project as the view from the window) as the soundtrack crescendoed a Hawk and an Eagle flew past the window over the landscape, my distorted vocals reciting The Hawk and The Eagle by John Denver.

What/Who are...

DD: ... Your influences?
Rory Middleton: Jack Cardiff, Cinematographer.

DD: ... is the best artist of all time?
Rory Middleton: I am really fond of Peter Doig.

DD: ... was the best show you saw in the last six months?
Rory Middleton: Tony Swain, Drowned Dust, Sudden Word. The Fruit Market Gallery Edinburgh.

DD: ... is your dream show?
Rory Middleton: Alf the Sacred River...It will happen.

DD: ... is your next project?
Rory Middleton:
My next project is ‘Talisman’ a collaboration with Canadian artist Jay Mosher. The installation was originally conceived for as an experiment to be documented in the Badlands, Alberta Canada. ‘Talisman’ a round pane of glass fifty-eight and a half inches in diameter that rests vertically in a mechanism located at its base that slowly rotates it. The spinning glass is based on a filmic technique used by Kubrick in which a pane of glass is rotated in front of the camera with a pen stuck to its surface to simulate weightlessness. The mechanism section is precisely engineered to house the glass and spin it at a rate slow enough (half an inch per second) that both the existence of the glass and reality viewed through it is questioned.

 More info on the Converse/Dazed Emerging Artists Award HERE