Currently reading : the big beam theory

the big beam theory

29 October 2011

Author : maxime-buechi

An interview with Ché Zara Blomfield, curator of BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) installation which took place at Rich Mix on October 16th 2011

Artists participating were; Cecile Emmanuelle Borra, Kathryn Ferguson, Daniel David Freeman, Matthew Johnstone, Sophie Michael, Kadeem Oak, Clifford Sage, Anastasia Shin, Daniel Swan, Tim Steer, Amalia Ulman & Tobias Zehntner.

In order of appearance: Tim Steer, Tobias Zehntner, Cecile Emmanuelle Borra, Daniel Swan, Matthew Johnstone, Anastasia Shin, Sophie Michael, Clifford Sage! (Interactive Video Game)

Maxime: Can you give us a brief background on your life? Where you’re from etc?

Che: My life! Ha… well, I grew up pretty much in the native New Zealand forest in a place called the Waitakere Ranges – which borders the largest of New Zealand’s cities at just over 1 million population. Far from the largest urban zone in the European Union we know as London – a busy, fast paced city with a low standard of living (by comparison)… although I believe this is the very reason I fell in love with it – I like to make things hard for myself.

How did the BYOB project come about (how relevant is video art today? why did you want to focus on video etc)?

BYOB seemed perfect for Frieze week, also after the last exhibition I curated Channel 8… which pertains to ideas of the zeitgeist, all works explored digital mediums or methods used in art practice and references between artists were visible despite the distance between them. BYOB stands for Bring your Own Beamer and was initiated by artists Rafael Rozendaal (who is kind of a digital media guru who just featured on a Nokia Advert!! and is represented Tokyo, Milan and Stockholm) and Anne de Vries. They invited artists I am interested in and highlighted other interesting artists. BYOB presents itself as an easy platform for showing video… which to me looks similar to the way we look at work online… with multiple pages or ‘tabs’ open… of course it works for only a certain type of work; the videos at BYOB (in this case at least) don’t have a narrative or crucial dialogue, many do not have sound and all loop or are completely static in the case of Tobias’ work. I was looking through the work coming out of goldsmiths and there seemed to be a lot of video work, three artists are recent graduates from the BA programme there. I’d like to learn more about why video is relevant again today… two reasons I have hypothesised are 1. budget… making large sculptures with marble isn’t really a viable option for young artists especially now… and 2. political reasons. I believe this may have something to do with the currently high amount of abstract work. Escapism, confusion or unwillingness to believe in certain facts or histories also has to do with digital media and the internet which has made vast amounts of information readily available.

Why a submission-based installation?

Well, it wasn’t submission based. I asked all the artists to be involved and I knew vaguely what their videos would be or suggested which ones I thought would work. Therefore knew how they would work together – some couldn’t make it which was a shame because the project was meant to be as overwhelming as Frieze, it was a comment on the bombardment of image/information there… and how that also reflects on London in general… the advertising, the pace, the repetition.

How was the installation put together (how did you find/chose this space, how much is you, how much is the artists’ choice)

It happened quite naturally… When the artists where there they were just like – “hmm, maybe that wall, maybe up more…” or “I’m just going to set up here is that OK?” It comes together at that point. It was a long day – set up was from 3pm and we were ready at 6.45… then pack down at 10 and out by 10.30! Mad. Finding spaces is always is a bit of a nightmare. The idea always comes first, spurred by artists I’m looking at, then the process of making it happen comes next and along side that I develop the idea.

Can you please comment on the actual installation how it was? (what were your impressions, how did the audience react)

I think it worked well, It was meant to create movement, people stood in front of projectors often which was great because it made it more interactive, there was no negativity. One comment was “the busier it is the less you can see” to which I responded it applies to all exhibitions…. in a way it was a bit like a painting exhibition… with paintings hung high all over the walls… the space lent itself really well – the staircase worked as a sort of viewing platform and/or theatre seating, the sides where glass so they reflected the video works which was really nice, and Sophie installed her work underneath it which made it feel really special as it was secluded like a den. I think everyone enjoyed it! There was a nice atmosphere, it was chilled, people spent time engaging with the works and with each other.

Can you give a comment on each video?

Phew! Well… I’ll start with Sophie Michael, hers was less of a ‘video’ and more of an installation… She had four 8mm projectors set up without film. They projected only light through each others projector reels to which Sophie added sculptural interventions, the light beams forming a square… The reason I invited her was to have a bit of range – most of the works are very digital, yet her work has elements of abstraction with a focus on colour. This work also has a performative sense to it which I think works well with the nature of BYOB.
Cécile Emmanuelle Borra was actually one of the first artists I invited… she almost encouraged the project when it was in the early stages… I met her at the Channel 8 show and she liked Matthew’s work so it went from there – she showed the same work Kaleidoscope at Sketch, where Rafael had also shown before, so there was a link there. Her film contains her own photographs of male genitalia… “shifting the gaze” she then manipulated the images into a beautiful and gentle kaleidoscopic disfiguration of penises that draws you in and takes a moment before realising what you are enjoying… Matthew Johnstone showed two works; Colourfield Loop and Eastenders “a 1 minute scene taken from a notorious episode of Eastenders, in which Ronnie famously gives Kat back her baby, Tommy. The file has been modified and abstracted using a similar method to that employed for the copy protection of digital files” making it look a bit like a datamosh the video is part of a larger video work which was shown at Channel 8 called TECHNO23 which is made up of many sections. Tobias Zehnter’s piece was a still called No Input – the classic no input blue colour projected outside of a physical frame intervention. There has been a small obsession with this ‘no input’ blue/ blue computer start up/crash / branding of digital products in the circle of artists I’m looking at… It is also seen in the video by Anastasia Shin’s Bestavision which flickers though channels, modes and other videos – one snippet also incorporates the kaleidoscope.

Clifford Sage made an interactive video game! It was nuts, Clifford also works on videos with Kathryn Ferguson whom showed three videos Máthair, Hymn of the Haruspex and I want you all which integrated Cliffords technical skills, some crazy dance moves and amazing ad-hoc costume. Daniel Swan’s video Stargate had a kind of liquid surface with a hand reaching through it… Daniel uses digital mastering software such as Flash and After Effects to make his video works, similarly Kadeem Oak uses this software to distort and duplicate footage as in Building Better Worlds and Achieving is a completely computer generated chart of fellow students grades from Goldsmiths with some bonkers 80’s aesthetic thrown in the mix. Tim Steer also used digital software to generate two slick, slowly rotating iPad (looking) stands – one in marble and one with your classic Lion (Mac OSX) desktop image (the purple starry one) – reminiscent of a product display or web store image, circled in a loop of illustrated rope the (predominantly) illustrator Daniel David Freeman projected a video of a tiny monkey popping its head out of water repeatedly and Amalia Ulman presented Proposal for a Spanish Roundabout a 1second video on loop of a shiny silver barbel positioned in the centre of a generic grassy roundabout.

Would you reiterate the experience?

I’d hope you get some idea from the above. You should find one in a town near you and go – after all BYOB has now been in over 40 cities! … check out for updates ;)

How would you develop your curating experience?

The technical side of it is always interesting. I’m quite hands-on so learning how to reformat and save DVD files, find the right cables, change computer displays, build scaffolding, change lighting – etc is always beneficial. For me its step by step, one show leads onto or informs the next. For this event I was reminded to keep aiming high… I’m always astonished by the support and positive responses from the artists and attendees. Artists involved in this project were all helpful and supportive, I enjoyed the collaborative effort; it gave the event a special energy which I think was in tern enjoyed by the audience.

KALEIDOSCOPE from Cécile Emmanuelle Borra on Vimeo.

Tobias Zehntner No Imput

BESTAVISION from Anastasia Shin on Vimeo.

Achieving (2011) from Kadeem Oak on Vimeo.

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