Monday, 5 October 2009

Into the Void - interview with Sam Smith

TROVE curator Charlie Levine interviews Australian artist Sam Smith regarding his exhibition Into The Void.
Sunday 4th October 2009 6-9pm
The Old Science Museum
144 Newhall Street
Birmingham
B3 1RZ

Charlie Levine: Can you give me a brief history of you and your practice and how you arrived here at Into The Void?
Sam Smith: I studied sculpture at art school although I soon started combining video and installation. I was very interested in a world that was mediated by digital technologies and the cross over of cinema and the everyday. I am interested in exposing the mechanics of digital video creation and especially the methods of cinematic special effects while imagining the possibilities for the reconfiguration of space and time through harnessing these techniques. Recently I've become increasingly interested in exploring the tropes of science fiction cinema and thinking about the ideas of how video itself can be considered time travel by allowing the viewer access to past and future histories.

CL: Staying with your past work, tell me more about the luminous green as seen in Video Camera [HDW-F900/3] and Twist, what does it represent?
SS: The green in my work is representative of cinematic green screen. Green screens are used as backgrounds in cinema so that objects can be isolated and removed. For me they are emblematic of video’s ability to transport, transform, and essentially render the contents of the world malleable. In certain works, such as Video Camera [HDW-F900/3] the green liquid is a physical manifestation of digital data. The green ectoplasm appears as a ghostly omen of the paranormal effects the thick ooze holds.

CL: There is something immediately 'sci-fi' about your work, but somehow when placed next to your new work takes on a darker role, less humorous more ‘apocalyptic,’ perhaps this is due to you filming in New York, is this something you're aware of?
SS: I have always felt that digital cinema, when seen through a science fiction lens, holds certain dark undertones. The idea of the infinite possibilities brought forth through digital effects, is for me both an exciting and frightening prospect. A world without the laws of physics is reminiscent of a horror film where the natural order is turned on its head.

CL: Colour is obviously very important in all three works, why is this? What do they mean to you and the direction of your work as well as their interpretation?
SS: Colour is important in terms of what they symbolically represent, specifically the blue or green of cinematic chromakey backdrops. When converted to digital video space they are the colours of nothingness and the void.

CL: Linking then to Into The Void, this video was a result of a residency in New York, can you give me some background into making the work and how you came to the final version we watch at TROVE? Plus, where did your apparent obsession with Yves Klein come from?
SS: Into The Void is a process video. The idea for the work didn't germinate until I arrived in New York so recreating Yves Klein's leap wasn't actually something I was thinking about beforehand. The work evolved out of the situation of living in a different environment. The searching that forms the narrative of the video isn't dissimilar to my experience as an artist making the work. In that way the artwork narrative and my own are linked. I see Into The Void as a tangent history, a fork formed in my personal timeline. At the point where I recreated Klein's leap, a version of myself still remains, stuck in a video loop while the traffic of New York moves constantly on.

I am also very inspired by the ideas behind Klein's Le Saut dans le Vide (The Leap into the Void, 1960). The photographic montage was produced after the first satellite was launched into space and only a year before the first man left our atmosphere. The image suggests a desire to escape both spatial and temporal constraints.

In terms of the production of the video: everything (with the exception of the overlays of myself for the 2 International Klein Blue scenes and the leap) was shot in New York over the space of 3 to 4 months. During this stage there was a deliberate lack of editing to the ideas for the piece. I shot footage for a number different scenes but the overall narrative was established from the start. The footage wasn't touched till I returned to Sydney and began assembling. The work underwent numerous iterations in the editing phase, for example the overlaid multiple exposures was something born in postproduction. Similarly the soundtrack went through various versions. I find with editing, and especially audio, it's often about finding a mood. This artwork more than any other before was completed using traditional cinematic methods, i.e. the stages of preproduction, production and postproduction were quite closely followed. This reflected my desire for the video to mimic some more filmic standards in its format.

For further information please contact Charlie Levine at charlie@trove.org.uk

Sam Smith is represented by GRANTPIRRIE, Sydney.
Into The Void was commissioned by Next Wave for its inaugural Time Lapse program.
http://www.samsmith.net.au/

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