Wednesday, 11 March 2009

'The only reality which counts in the end is the interpretation', John Grierson

© Sean Snyder, Index, 2008-9 Courtesy the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; Lisson Gallery, London; Galerie Neu, Berlin

Ok, so I've cut the quote slightly but it just seemed so relevant to Index, an exhibition currently showing at the ICA in London by the American artist Sean Snyder. Index is a manifestation of a research project Snyder has been working on, going back, examining and digitising his own archive of images and recordings. In his own words
"Using archival and media resources, as well as references from the history of cinema, photography and art, the research attempts to define a cumulative vocabulary to approach the vast role that imaging technologies play in the construction of ideology."
'Optics. Compression. Propaganda', Sean Snyder in Art and Research: a Journal of Ideas, Contexts and Methods, Vol. 2, No. 1 Summer 2008

The eponymous Index part of the exhibition is photographs of his archive of images and recordings, including photographs of tapes and other analogue recording materials as well as the digital devices he was transferring his archive to. Maybe this is just the archivist in me but I found it quite frustrating that there wasn't much, if any, contextual information given about most of these photographs. Maybe this was the point, to think on them as art objects themselves rather than repositories of information. However if this was the case then it seems to conflict with another part of Snyder's research project, a website from which the digital archive will be able to be accessed (which gives some information about the content and context of the photographs in the exhibition). However, even with the lack of information about the information in the photographs, they still make interesting images and it's always great to get a glimpse into the world of information that informs artists' work.

© Sean Snyder, Exhibition, 2008, DVD projection, 7 minutes, Installation view at ICA, 2009
Courtesy: The artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; Lisson Gallery, London; Galerie Neu, Berlin

In addition to Index there are three video installations: Exhibition; Afghanistan, circa 1985; and Casio, Seiko, Sheritan, Toyota, Mars. I thought they were all really interesting but I particularly liked the first film Exhibition which uses a Soviet propaganda film from 1965 about an exhibition of contemporary Mexican art by Riviera and other Mexican artists I hadn't heard of before and mixes this with film footage of an art history lecture in a rural community. I liked the similarities it pointed to between the art in the exhibition space in the gallery and then the art lecture in the rural community where the art works were hanging on the outside walls of a farm building. Even in the rural setting the conventions of the art world were adhered too, the work was framed, revered and examined just as it would be in a gallery setting. I read, in the programme for the exhibition, that it was meant to be 'exploring the ideological basis of the original documentary' but it was the similarities, the adherence to cultural conventions, that I thought was most interesting.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Unfolding the Aryan Papers

© Jane & Louise Wilson - Unfolding the Aryan Papers, BFI Southbank Gallery, 13 February – 19 April 2009, Research photographs by Stanley Kubrick for 'Aryan Papers', The Stanley Kubrick Archives, University of the Arts London

Part of my work with the Lindsay Anderson Collection will involve cataloguing the vast amount of material relating to unfinished film and theatre projects which Anderson was involved with - they could be unfinished because he didn't feel the project worth pursuing but, more often than not, it came down to a lack of finanical backing and support. I am looking forward to cataloguing this material as I'm sure it will have a very different feel to it than the material relating to the finished films. It will be interesting to see how far each project got, how involved he became in it, and the reasons why it never came to fruition.

As a result I was very interested to hear about an ongoing exhibition, Unfolding the Aryan Papers, at the British Film Institute at Southbank in London. On a recent visit to London I took the opportunity to go and see it and found it very inspiring and insightful. The exhibition is centred around the records relating to an unrealised film project Aryan Papers by the director Stanley Kubrick. Unfolding the Aryan Papers was created by two artists, Jane and Louise Wilson, highly acclaimed British artists who were on a British Film Institute commissioned residency at the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts London

© Jane & Louise Wilson - Unfolding the Aryan Papers, BFI Southbank Gallery, 13 February – 19 April 2009, Research photographs by Stanley Kubrick for 'Aryan Papers', The Stanley Kubrick Archives, University of the Arts London

Stanley Kubrick spent over twenty years researching for Aryan Papers, a film about the holocaust. He went as far as to choose the lead actors and the locations but the film never got passed the pre-production stage. In an interview with Louisa Buck for Ponystep, Louise Wilson pinpoints a number of possible reasons for this, based on the material relating to the film in the Kubrick Archive. The interview highlights the profound insights into thw working rpacticves and thoughts of a director that can be gained through their archive. What I loved about the installation created by Jane and Louise was the way in which they had re-interpreted the material in the archive. They got in touch with Johanna ter Steege, the actor Kubrick had wanted for the lead role, with whom he had shot wardrobe research stills and had many discussions about the film. The film installation which Jane and Louise Wilson created as a result of their extensive research used these wardrobe research stills, pre-production period stills, and the co-operation of Johanna der Steege. In the film Steege discusses her first meeting with Kubrick, explains the story of the film in more detail, her reasons for wanting to do it, and she recreates the original wardrobe stills. Unfolding the Aryan Papers made Steege visible and there was a real sense of how involved she was in the Kubrick film and how disappointed she was that it never got made. The interview which Louisa Buck conducted with Jane and Louise Wilson is really interesting and definitely worth further reading for insights into the benefits, and challenges, of working with archive material to create new and exciting art works.