The Wind Through The Winch Room
In the first of a series of artist interviews, Emma Emmerton speaks to Seth Guy, who has been showing recent work
as part of beforeBETWEENbeyond at CoExist Gallery @ TAP.
The current show beforeBETWEENbeyond is essentially a reconvening of graduate peers from University of East London, the “class of 2002” – how do you feel your own work has developed since graduating?
In essence at least, I don't feel my work has changed greatly since graduating; I'm still very much working with concepts, collage and reappropriated materials. That said, my work has broadened in scope and developed to include more methods and modes of working, in particular with sound, performance and participation. UEL gave me time to work through a lot of options, and I made some great friends. Since then, I've been exploring my ideas with the benefit of a great deal more time, experience and consideration. In those areas I didn't cover at university I've mainly self-taught myself through either research, or picked up in the course of working with other artists, and in a willingness to be involved in others' projects too. I like to reflect and critically analyse my work often, and with showing regularly too and the feedback I get from people further informs what I do and will do in the future. I think this dialogue between artist and viewer very important. I think my work and indeed myself have greatly benefitted from this continuous self-educating and I'm keen for it to continue.
‘C’ has been the source of discussion by many who have visited TAP over the past weeks - how did you arrive at this piece?
Whilst working, and importantly performing live, as part of London Concrete, it was necessary to consider and develop our visual presence. Certain techniques lent themselves to this far better than others, so in developing C I borrowed techniques from a particular aktion(sic) using materials in speaker cones and tweaked it a little to create a sculpture. When London Concrete became defunct last year I was keen to continue developing my ideas with regard to sound-making but with a focus on marrying that with conceptual and visual art. This, as I'm discovering, is fantastically hard! Using both a visual and sonic minimal aesthetic helped, but it wasn't until I decided on the inclusion of a print of Chillida's 'Combs of the Wind' instead of simply a blank piece of paper that that the work was complete. This was a very clear and an exciting way of unifying these elements by reappropriating visual art (an inversion of the idea of sound sampling) and to create a further conceptual departure. When making work I like to create multiple layers, like puzzles, which can be read and interpreted differently as a whole or in parts. For example, the C in the title can refer to many elements or just one, either obscure or obvious. It's very much up to the viewer how it should be read and understood.
You’ve produced works for theatre, radio, live performance and exhibitions. Historically a number of the soundworks you’ve produced have been collaborations, I read you collaborated on a site-specific performance last year at the Viewfinder Gallery, working with dancer Lizzie Sells & photographer Claire Davidson. How does collaboration affect your creative process as a sound artist?
Collaborating with other artists allows me to clarify my own creative processes in giving me an insight into the perspective of someone else. I've found it a great way to both learn and unlearn, and to effectively create a collage of ideas that can only be arrived at by accepting risks, chance and that I cannot entirely control the outcome as I might with my solo work. I know that for some artists collaborating is something they avoid for precisely these reasons but I've found it incredibly useful. I see my collaborators as a sort of unknown raw material as part of an experiment in which the process is the work, rather than the outcome. Experiments can last for long and short periods, and sometimes fail, but when they succeed the results can be enlightening. Both results and process too further develop and inform my solo work, or can provide starting points for new work that I may never have arrived at working on my own.
As well as having many of your own pieces online you have created an ongoing online project entitled “The SARS Virus”, which is billed as “a free resource of raw sonic materials for artists to reappropriate”. What was the catalyst for creating this? How do you see/how would you like to see the samples used?
There were a great many catalysts for initiating The SARS Virus, but chiefly the idea arose after reflecting on the huge amount of recorded material I'd made in my own sonic research over the years and on the raw materials other artists had sent London Concrete for our Reaktions project (www.last.fm/music/london+concrete). It was clear to me that artists work in a great many different approaches to sound-making with an infinite number of possible results but that invariably only a tiny fraction of that made in research actually is utilized in finished work. As my work incorporates reappropriated materials I decided to invert this method and make my surplus materials available to others. These raw materials are in themselves minimal works, but they're also fleeting ideas and insights into methods of working for others to make their own and explore. I'm not really interested so much in how they're used, but that it exposes visitors to sonic art practice that they can download, use and make their own. I like the idea that the virus facilitates a change in how work is heard too, not as the whole or sum, but broken down and seen as a collage of individual parts, stripping down and laying bare our audio objects.
Finally, what plans or projects do you have for the future?
In the immediate future, I will be performing at Five Years (www.fiveyears.org.uk) for the preview of Field Recordings [1-13] on Friday 5th Feb from 6pm. I'll be presenting a new experimental work 'Various Artists' utilising excerpts from over 50 field recordings that I've made of various visual artists works. Then I intend to resolve some unfinished projects from last year, such as the collages made from my Recycles drawings and my reappropriation project Circles & Lines. Then after that I have plenty of new ideas to develop along similar lines, both sonic and visual, so, we'll see...and hear. I promise I'll keep you informed!
For more about Seth’s work visit http://www.last.fm/music/Seth+Brignell