Esther Armstrong: The Nomadic Hamlet
Interview with Paul Tarrago:
WCA: Tell us about what you have planned for Acts Re-Acts II PT: What I’m going to be bringing to the ACTS/REACTS II picnic table is: ‘Kodachrome 40,50,60… go’ (11mins, 2014) which is a Super 8 and tape-slide performance piece, mixing in a big edit of home movies (found + personal) plus a cache of 35mm slides from far afield. This grab bag of pastness is stitched together into a two-screen, live voiced performance piece eschewing all but analogue technologies. Images and explanatory trailer: http://paultarrago.net/most-recent-work/explanatory-trailers/
WCA: Tell us about your work/practice in general PT: I’m an artist filmmaker and writer, using both video and celluloid. My work? A mix of underground experimentation and metafiction, tugging at the leash of film language but with narrative often held close at hand. Samples, examples and much MORE is available at www.paultarrago.net WCA: Tell us about your thoughts around this year’s theme of space and place – how will you respond to it? PT: Ooh, the questions are getting trickier! As a filmmaker I often make discrete single screen works that are autonomous once complete i.e. they can show without me being around – you just press play. But some moving image material works better with an element of liveness, the possibility of things going wrong maybe – or at least with more vulnerability + mechanism manifest. ‘Kodachrome…’ is about film space + memory space. Also, practically all the materials I’m using are reversal stock so they – the slides, the Super 8 images – are the original bits of film which went on holiday with their owners to Yucatan or Yarmouth or wherever. So there’s probably something going on with optical + virtual spaces too, and let’s nor forget historical and narrative space either… WCA: Who else’s work/performance are you looking forward to seeing at Acts Re-Acts II this year? PT: I-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e to say, as lots of this work – and many of the makers – are new to me. That said, I’ve never gone to a performance by Richard Layzell and not been impressed; he has a way of engaging, cheating expectation and making things (images, gestures) stick in your mind for a long time afterwards. I suspect he has magical powers. It’s also a fine time to see what one’s contemporaries are up to. At college you can lose sight of the fact that teaching is just part of what we do – that often there’s an iceberg-sized body of work and activity that gets pushed into the background once you step through the college gates. So, ACTS/REACTS is a bit of a novelty: it’s celebratory and educative – and you get to see your colleagues as makers rather than just pedagogues. Not that there’s anything wrong with pedagogy (!) – only, that’s just telling half the story…
The Year Above (2013-2015) is a series of films by Patrick Ward that explore the relation between technical media, visual language and forms of subjectivity. In advance of his live performance of The Year Above Part 1 and Part 2, he talks to music critic Frances Morgan about the use of sound in the films Frances Morgan: The Year Above, Part 1, follows your 2013 film, The Year Above, Part 2. One obvious difference is that Part 2 uses written and spoken text, whereas Part 1 focuses more on the sounds ‘between’, such as breath, distortion, coughs, and mostly unintelligible overheard words, as well as sounds associated with communication such as Skype ringtones. How are the two related? Patrick Ward: In a way, they are one work. When I finished making the film in 2013 I felt it was a middle section to something else, so I just called it Part 2. I then set about making Part 1, and Part 3 is currently in production. I was thinking very much about transitional states – physical, psychological, emotional – and how they might operate metaphorically in relation to the material and technical means of transition and movement. The sounds you describe in Part 1, both the human and the automated ones, evoke a space in which communication might happen or is trying to happen. It’s trying make sense of the myriad forms that structure how we anticipate, expect or ignore forms of communication. When we try and articulate something we may spend some time trying to find the right words, but we’re not just considering words, we’re also considered form and context. Between speaking on the phone, sending an SMS, ‘liking’ on Facebook, Tweeting, chatting with Viber, having a Skype call or writing an email, we have so many different platforms for communication. And of course with social media we can choose to make this communication private or public. These platforms all have their own shifting and mutating uses and etiquette; and they all have a different relation to time and their own ways of producing distraction, disappointment and distress in the way they process information. I think one reason I knew that Part 2 would have a preceding film was so that intelligible speech would occur even later in the work – in Part 2 it emerges around halfway through. I wanted the speech to feel difficult in a way that didn’t need to be dramatised in the voice. The voice is as flat as possible but there is a lot of noise around it.
FM: Art that uses techniques of field recording seems to have influenced this work – are there any examples of this, especially in music, you feel you’ve drawn from? PW: I’m drawn to music that allows the process of recording to enter the work so I’m less interested in field recording that strives to capture a sonic environment as something precious, as if there is a pure sound that can be discovered and preserved. I’m suspicious of field recording as a genre, in particular the “no digital or electronic manipulation was used” disclaimer that is often accompanied with a photo of the artist in the field, with headphones and microphone. There’s a kind of fetishisation of absence/presence in this kind of work, one that seems to valorise an aloof sensibility that ignores the politics of how an artist gets to wander in such exotic fields. I am more interested in field recording that engages with the performative aspects of recording and where there is an invested relationship between the artist and field…so I’d rather hear the sound of someone’s dad trying to set the video recorder than, say, the mating call of an exotic bird. FM: What kind of compositional methods do you use when constructing the sound? Bearing in mind how tightly edited it is to the picture, what challenges are presented by performing it live when, presumably, less precision will be possible? PW: I tend to start by making one very short sequence. Working with sound and images at the same time, these short sequences tend to come together quickly from material that I’ve been thinking about for some time. Once I have a sequence I extrapolate a larger structure from there. I make a fragment and then the process of making the final work is imagining the whole that this fragment came from. I then remove certain aspects of the sound from the edit in order to perform it live. The performance becomes a situation in which I’m trying to keep up with myself. But of course there is a discrepancy between the dynamics of post-production and the gestures of live performance, and it’s this discrepancy that I’m interested in exploring when presenting my films in a live context.