Interview with Rachel Lowe…

While the final contribution to WAKE is looming, Rachel Lowe last week opened a meticulous time split and sent all evidence of a narrative to an hypothetical dimension.

Fifth and penultimate artist, Rachel Lowe turned Dilston Grove into abysmal darkness. Amplifying the dramatic undertone that Carl Von Weiler had previously set, the only remains of the previous artists’ physical presence are pasted on the rear wall: it is a projected, flickering image, of a pile, “a “funeral pyre”, the artist later explains. Using video to reflect the intangible, Rachel Lowe tells Victor Delvecchio why she has taken everything away.  

VD: When we first spoke I remember you had difficulties, did you overcome the problem?

RL: I did first think of a slide projection using still images. The problem was that I was focusing on the architecture of the church and realised that it was too difficult. Once I started filming it, I liked it very much. The “pyre” is quite difficult to understand, it has a presence but it takes a while to understand the different layers within the video. Using a still image would have been too still. I think it adds something more complex to the representation.

VD: Aside from the video there isn’t a single trace of what’s been done before.

RL: I have gathered together everything physical, objects that the artists used in the past four weeks. I have made a big pile, a reference to a funeral pyre and then I am either filming it or photographing it. It appeared as a slide on the wall. Then I have removed all the objects; they will be present but not present at the same time.

It totally changed the space but without actually putting anything in it and it was very exciting to take the actual objects away. Although seeing the projection and the object at the same time was interesting too, it was important to see that the video that appears on the wall “is about” the pile; I wanted the presence of the objects in the projection. Depth has been collapsed onto one image and I am very interested in how mind perceives the different layers; I want people to be aware of the space; I am filming it in the space and then I am removing it.

The image is now just one long single shot, all the flashing comes from the different camera settings, it didn’t like the different type of light I asked it to read. It’s changing focus and creates this flicker. There is also a strobe light behind the pile which is really nice as it captures this shorter-than-a-blink moment, so it gives a sense of after image, you are not sure if it’s there or not; as the light changes, it creates a pattern and I like the fact that it looks like it’s communicating something.

VD: But, how much of Carl’s work did you keep?

RL: Carl took the ribbon off, which was really dominant in colour and bound it up. He brought that covering a big area but I wanted everything that has been used, the head and the arm and leg that were in William Cobbing’s piece and then got the projectors in David Cotterrell’s and the ropes. It just like removing any order, merging them, so it kind of loses boundaries.

I have made pieces before where I have projected a wall painting and projected a Super 8 film on top of it without any film in it so you just get the flicker; people stood looking at it for quite a long time, they expected something to happen.

A “projection” is a bit like a “reflection” and all these objects were records, marking the time that has been, as a memory. Now, only an image remains; it shows a contrast between something physical and a representation but as a continuation of the space.

VD: How about the dramatic feeling? The overall is quite unsettling…

RL: I am interested in the conceptual contrast between moving and still images. When the still images are projected – and because of the focus change – it creates a movement that is not real nor linear, actually. Because these are still images, it is not moving but it appears like it is. A little bit like stop frame animation, it’s sort of an artificial movement, I have tried to manufacture time.

VD: Is that the undertone of your research?

RL: Well, I have only reacted to what’s been before but the undertone would be that I am quite interested in the idea of a “funeral pyre”; the fire that’s used to burn bodies, it links to a disturbing idea of lynching.

VD: Is it “an end” to a “new beginning”?

RL: Well, it is a funeral pyre as much as an altar or a shrine but content has been reduced to almost nothing. Everything is there but nowhere at the same time, it is intangible now. I chose Bronwen Buckeridge, who works with sound so it will be interesting to see what she will come up with.

VD: How would you describe your work?

RL: I work across a variety of media but I am particularly interested in installation which uses projection. It’s about projection as a physical support, it’s like almost a sculptural installation which happens to use projection.

VD: How is it to be the reaching the end of that project?

RL: It has been very interesting, I really liked it. It’s been really good for me. I think the church has been a fantastic space and having access to lots of different equipment to try things out has been really good. I think it’s quite nice coming towards the end of the whole process. My idea wouldn’t have worked if I’d been at the beginning. It is very interesting to leave the artists to choose who comes next. It produced different associations. It has been really helpful to my work.

VD: Did you come to a conclusion?

RL: It’s been very good to spend five days, trying out different things with very different materials.

VD: Is it the first time you’ve collaborated on that sort of project?

RL: Yes it is, and it feels very exciting to have boundaries, the project provides a structure, sometimes it’s good when everything is not just self-generated.

VD: How close are you from your normal creative pattern? Does it feel like editing someone’s work?

RL: I am using what’s been before and I am very conscious of the tone of the other work. I had this project of using everything physical to then collapse it all together, that’s my way of using what’s done before, responding to it. Now, it’s like my own creative process to make the finished piece. I like the fact that the work is untitled. There are boundaries within the project but there is also freedom, there is no individual claim of the work. It gives the viewer a lot of space either to view it as individually or to think about how they relate to each other.

The final artist in the WAKE chain is Bonwen Buckeridge, who will be responding to Rachel’s installation at Dilston Grove this week, with a public opening on Sat 16/Sun 17 July. There will be a talk, involving all the WAKE artists and chaired by Rachel Withers at 5pm on Sunday 17th July at Dilston Grove.

Meanwhile, ARCHIPELAGO continues at Cafe Gallery, open Wed-Sun. There will be a chance to catch all the performance works on the last day, Sunday 17th July between 3-4.30pm.

Image: WAKE Week 5 – Rachel Lowe. Photo by Victor Delvecchio.

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