Saturday, 19 February 2011

32 Five Second Moving Portraits

Made over three hours on a Saturday afternoon, these moving portraits repeat the method of my last gallery interaction (22nd January, below). Visitors were asked if they'd like to design a five second moving portrait which I then shot on one of the Pavilion education department's compact cameras. Five second sections were cut from the original footage and simply joined up in the order in which they were made.

Feeling emboldened by my first go at this, and a bit more familiar with the video setting of the little digital camera, I played it a bit more fast and loose this time. So much so that the first two portraits are the wrong way around. Sorry, I've been a stills photographer for thirty years and obviously have some bad habits. The gentleman in the first clip, John, is a teacher of film and said that he didn't mind he liked it that way, so I felt better and then did it again.

I was less strict with duration this time, making longer clips from which to cut from, an intervention that I had tried hard to exclude before. Also, we (Penny Hobson, artist and De La Warr volunteer, and myself) were in a rush in a very busy gallery, dealing with people who weren't so willing to write a plan on a clipboard but were very keen to get on with it. There was a lot more improvisation from the sitters this time, and what a cast! Thanks to all for being such a pleasure to work with.

The modern digital snapshot camera makes data files that are the 8mm amateur cine films of our day. The big difference is that one isn't forced to discriminate with the digital camera. The tiny memory card is so vast compared to the quick, expensive and single use rolls of film in use from the 1950's to the 1970's. Nowadays, having method and intention behind what you put on that memory card is more essential than ever in order to make something worth saving. It might be this aspect of Moving Portraits, more than any other, that makes people respond so well to this exhibition.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Special film event The Human Face (1990)

Nominated for a BAFTA, The Human Face (1990) is an experimental 60 minute documentary made for BBC Arena. American poet, artist and musician Laurie Anderson narrates an examination of mankind's obsession with its own image, looking at the use of heads and the human face in art and sculpture, and at the prejudices applied every day based solely on a person's appearance.

Nichola Bruce, the director of The Human Face and renowned film maker, will give a special talk about the role portraiture plays in her practice, followed by a screening of the film. Thanks to Anthony Wall, Series Editor, BBC Arena.

Tickets: £5
For bookings and information call the Box Office directly on 01424 229 or book online at

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Chinese Whispers meets Moving Portraits Sat 12th Feb

How much are we able to receive from the mass of information contained in a portrait? Add to this the possibility of confusing or intensifying the viewer's focus with the nature of portraits which are not static and the possibility for untold reinterpretations taking place becomes apparent. What does each viewer bring to the temporary encounter? Beyond the immediacy of the visible, can we connect to the subliminal layers which are part of the artist's own interpretation of their subject? What is contained in the reinterpretation which we take away as a memory. These thoughts prompted me to draw on the idea of Chinese Whispers, and the changes which occur in transmission of information to see if I could inspire viewers to find a deeper focus in responding to selected portraits.

A movement of responses to the movement within each portrait.

It was a fascinating afternoon being able to observe the public gaze interacting with that of the unseeing portraits. My initial reluctance to disrupt the silent exchanges taking place disappeared as each person or group approached, were interested to consider how and why the information we receive from a visual starting point is transformed and reinterpreted as it passes through those who receive it.

A series of intense conversations took place. Each in itself moving in response to the reactions collected to specific portraits. The subject ranged widely from the unusual nature of the exhibition, modern art found in a fortress in Cadiz, and the agreed handsomeness of David B.

My request was simple: please respond to 5 questions relating to a specific portrait with one word answers. I also responded to different individuals by loosening the constraints of the instructions to 5 words which came to mind. This allowed for a more emotional response, prompting the viewer to engage further with their own experience of particular relationships. It had the effect of expanding their sense of distance or connection to either the subject or the observing taker of the image. Sue Phipps pinpointed a moral dilemna which occurs when a strongly negative response takes place through a personal judgement defining the interaction. Do we have a responsibility to question our reactions? I pass this on for reflection.

The multitude of indicators for indifferent or strong responses ranged from the experience of having a father who was one of twins, contempt or admiration for the subject portrayed, the poignancy of a mother's recent death, to a love of dogs. The constraint of 5 words distilled the essence of a response experienced for an individual, but I liked the silent rebellion to conform, which many people exhibited towards a greater expansiveness. 2 companions who participated, Gemma and Sue, enjoy seeing art together, balancing each other as poet/artist and self described non artist. Their playful eloquence meant that they were happy to engage in reflective exploration of different portraits. They enjoyed analysing their responses and found that they developed a greater connection with the act of seeing from a more internal place. Other participants also found it intriguing to examine their responses and decided to return for further visits to maximise their experience of the exhibition.

The next stage for my interaction on Saturday the 12th of March will be to add my own transmitting noise to the information received, to pass on a further interpretation. Will the original portrait remain identifiable throughout this process of movement.......