Artists

Lucy CloutKate Cooper, Anne Haaning and Marianna Simnett were selected from over 150 applications. In response to the curatorial brief and its title ‘What Will They See of Me?’, their four proposals explore the themes of identity, visibility and posterity in ways that both embrace and interrogate new technology and express a strong and compelling performative impulse.

Lucy Clout

The Extra’s Ever-Moving Lips

2014
7 minutes, 40 seconds Digital Video
Represented by Limoncello, London

Background actors are supposed to stay in the background. Expected to be both visible and invisible, extras are required to do something very close to nothing – nothing, above all, that will in any way distract from the leading actors’ performances. Sometimes, though, as we seek temporary distraction from our own lives in the surrogate dramas of TV soaps, a face from the shadows or a gesture from the margins may force itself forward, and, once noticed, start to dominate a scene. Lucy Clout’s video The Extra’s Ever-Moving Lips pivots on one such moment from a popular Australian television series. A passing instant that has always stayed with her, despite the distance of the intervening years, this fleeting encounter would once most likely have disappeared forever. Now, of course, post-internet, Clout is able to back up her memory of it by searching for it online, and then, after locating the clip on YouTube, enlist a lip reader to enlighten her about what is actually being said, before recruiting a contemporary soap star to recite the lines. Although this story of pursuit and discovery seems to act as the foreground focus of the work, Clout’s wider objective, signposted perhaps by the sprite-like animated figure that beats a mercurial path through this beguiling patchwork film, is to shed a warm, indulgent light on the background noise of contemporary life. Hymning the low- level hum of everyday chatter and witter, Clout finds within this overlooked hubbub of incidental, throwaway expression a quietly enduring measure of the people we really are when we are not busy pretending to be someone else.

Commissioned for the Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards: ‘What Will They See of Me?’. A collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Film and Video Umbrella, in association with CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow and University of East London, School of Arts and Digital Industries. Film and Video Umbrella is supported by Arts Council England.

Kate Cooper

Unknown Species in Full Resolution

2014
3 minutes, 48 seconds Video

The word model has multiple meanings. Sometimes used to imply an ideal or exemplary figure, it more commonly denotes a person who is employed to promote or display commercial products (like clothing or cosmetics), or to serve as a visual object for people making works of art. But it can also suggest a prototype: an outline to follow, a projection into the future. These kinds of model scenarios can act as a testing-ground, a site for experimentation, where different possibilities are tried out, and new forms of agency or persona are rehearsed and performed. How might people ‘occupy’ this space? And not just inhabit it, but mobilise it to their own ends? In Kate Cooper’s Unknown Species in Full Resolution, a trio of young women go through a series of pre-programmed moves and poses, against a manufactured, simulated backdrop embellished by swirling ribbons of CGI liquid. (An ad-industry staple, in which the product promoted is represented – fetishised and distilled – in its ‘purest’, most visually appealing form, this particular product-shot might also be a gesture to the delirious surplus of the ‘flows’ of capital). Although the images invoke the iconography of advertising, especially cosmetics commercials, Cooper probes their surface sheen, to reveal a different kind of personal make-up; an ideological imprint in which the influences of technology and capital are clearly visible. In so doing, she highlights the changing nature of our relationship to our bodies today: one that centres on a process of perpetual image-creation, with all the corresponding effort that goes with it to maintain a public-facing self-image. In this instance, simply being alive – eating, drinking, sleeping, dancing; let alone actively harnessing these activities to produce images as remunerated labour – could be construed as a form of work. As the laconic voiceover to Cooper’s film asserts, ‘Beauty is a mode of production’ and ‘your own economy [is] embedded in your DNA’.

Commissioned for the Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards: ‘What Will They See of Me?’. A collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Film and Video Umbrella, in association with CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow and University of East London, School of Arts and Digital Industries. Film and Video Umbrella is supported by Arts Council England.

Anne Haaning

KhoiSan Medicine

2014
12 minutes, 19 seconds HD video

In the black void of the digital realm, identity is moulded and dispersed, flesh billows into pixelated clouds, and the accumulated traces left behind by our online avatars take on a spectral life of their own. The video KhoiSan Medicine by Anne Haaning is an exploration of contemporary myth: the creation tales we weave about ourselves, but also the almost metaphysical nature of digital media, which, in spite of its apparent immateriality, can have a more lasting presence than bodies. Images of shifting sands, breathing mouths, skeins of dust, wire-frame models and exposed internal organs convey the instability of matter, and identity, in a digital context. Just as germs enter human bodies and breed within them, migrating from person to person in the form of sneezes, coughs and other forms of bodily exchange, online information is equally fluid, infectious, ‘viral’. Drawing on anthropological studies of the Khoisan peoples of southern Africa, who believe that wind is a divine force, one that enters (and exits) the body through its various pathways, Haaning connects technological transfer with ancient beliefs about the spiritual nature of the universe. The particulate textures apparent in the film, from the fragmentary sound-bites of the soundtrack to the grainy, computer-modelled 3D textures, emphasise disintegration and physical entropy. They also, however, point towards the resilience and adaptability of technology, its ability to shift like desert sand, constant yet constantly changing. That which we thought was permanent is revealed as fragile and ephemeral, and ghosts that we produce online may end up outliving us all.

Commissioned for the Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards: ‘What Will They See of Me?’. A collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Film and Video Umbrella, in association with CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow and University of East London, School of Arts and Digital Industries. Film and Video Umbrella is supported by Arts Council England.

Marianna Simnett

The Udder

2014
15 minutes, 30 seconds HD video

If childhood is a land of milk and honey, it is also a place of demons and ghosts. In Marianna Simnett’s short film The Udder, the mammary gland of the title doubles as a kind of memory machine that plugs us directly into that heightened, reverberant universe. Shot on a robot dairy farm in rural Sussex, and conjuring extraordinary performances from the people who live and work there, Simnett’s magic-realist tale considers the increasingly technical process of automated milk production as the site of an elemental struggle between the forces of purification and corruption; forces that loom equally large over a much more personal rite of passage, in which halcyon innocence is shadowed and clouded by the uncertainties of puberty. As soon as that threshold is crossed (even as soon as it is suggested), everything changes. Inside this looking-glass world, images sunder and splinter, and words take on double meanings. As the White Queen might have said: the udder is utterly udder, and utterly other – liable to transform, in a moment, from maternal monad to grisly gonad, or shape- shift further into protuberant nose, or phallic appendage. Simultaneously a familiar source of comfort and a disconcerting harbinger of the desires of the flesh, the udder is heavy with symbolism. Proceeding placidly to the place where it is milked, mutely acquiescing to the apparatus that surrounds it, it also invokes our bodies’ relationship to ever-enveloping technology, and the looking-glass landscape it portends: a new land of milk and honey, perhaps, but just as likely a new place of demons and ghosts.

Commissioned for the Jerwood/Film and Video Umbrella Awards: ‘What Will They See of Me?’. A collaboration between Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Film and Video Umbrella, in association with CCA: Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow and University of East London, School of Arts and Digital Industries. Film and Video Umbrella is supported by Arts Council England.