Research task: artists speaking about their practice

This is designed to underpin assignment 5 although, due to a mis-alignment of my printed copy of the course materials, I had already completed the video element. Fortunately, I had also viewed the recommended videos and formed an impression based on these and other interviews with artists, writers, scientists, and in documentaries.

These seem to break down categorically by inclusion/non inclusion of the interviewer; sedentary/mobile interviewee; front/partial profile aspect; and lighting. Interviewees in a recent documentary about the Grenfell Tower fire sat alone or as couples, directly facing the camera with occasional profile shots, and a completely dark background. The sobriety of the content was emphasised and underlined by the setting.

Interviewing creatives is, in my view, a hazardous enterprise – writers often read their work and many are not good readers; artists are invited to describe their work and may be less than coherent about this. It concerns me too that I rarely hear the questions to understand what prompted a particular response, although some, to my ear, have been more sycophantic than incisive.

I’m not sure there is a good way to deal with this. Media training can often replace authenticity with gloss or edge so that isn’t the answer. My suspicion is that live in situ (at an exhibition or in the studio) interviews may bring out the best in someone who is not used to public speaking and generally communicates through their practice. Talking to visitors about their work, informally and with ordinary human communication skills, or having a skilled interviewer ask insightful questions about their work while they work may produce more authentic and engaging results than the sit down interview approach.

That said, a very skilled interviewer, one accustomed to asking non-leading questions, holding questions to follow up at a better time in the session, maintaining a spirit of enquiry, communicating with empathy but not hero-worship, would very likely get the best from an interviewee and also leave them feeling understood. The most impressive documentarians do this, often addressing deeply traumatic experiences by being empathically ‘alongside’ their interviewees.

This is essentially post hoc preparation, the video already being in the can, as it were, and I have no regrets, beyond fantasising about my own film crew and a venue where I could control the visual and spatial elements. I have reflected the technological nature of my work in this; nodded towards curation in a virtual world; and referenced hybridisation in my choice of avatar – a Na’vi hunter. She comes with an inbuilt sassy walk which, with a bit of good management and a large dollop of luck, hitched itself to the musical track on one of the videos. As a hopeful post script, I have contacted the owner of New Brighton, a man who has been around in that environment for at least as long as I have and with whom I used to chat occasionally, about the possibility of holding my degree show there.

Picture taken within Second Life but using an external screen-clip facility.

Post script: these tasks may actually underpin assignment 6.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.